Stewardship Part 1
In this article I'm going to talk about stewardship. Stewardship is how one handles time, money and resources. Being a good steward means handling these things properly and not wasting what we have so generously been given. In biblical times being a bad steward got the death penalty.
It's a good thing that rule no longer exists because many, many people would be put to death for waste and mismanagement.
In some circles stewardship is referred to as tithing and others evangelism and discipleship. Tithing can also be referred to as an offering or pledge. A pledge being what you promise to give to the church. Legally it can be referred to as an intangible religious benefit. Here I'm going to talk primarily about giving money.
Many people give to their church or religious organization freely and there is nothing wrong with that particularly if they have far more than they ever could use. It is a good thing to help those less fortunate. We should all do what we can to help others. That doesn't mean it has to be monetary, it can be time or other resources. Whatever one chooses is up to him/her.
What I disagree with is someone deciding he/she knows exactly what the scriptures are referring to when in reality they really don't know and what we think we know could be very different from the intended meaning.
I say this because in biblical times things were very different and what we now call common place were definitely not thousands of years ago.
Just recently I read an article by an author who believes that it is our responsibility to make monetary offerings to the church because church is a gift. It is nice that we can fellowship with other christians but I do not believe we should be expected to pay for that gift and the author clearly states it's a gift yet we should pay for it.
He's certainly not the only person out there who believes this way. Perhaps these other people don't state it so boldly. Nonetheless it's out there.
What gets me is the author's attitude that we should say thank you for our gift of grace(God's grace and mercy) by giving money, an offering to the church for allowing us the gift of being welcomed to the church to hear the word of God.
Hearing the word of God and fellowshipping with other christians is a good thing. Should we pay for that gift? That is the main question here. My opinion is clearly no. Should we give an offering? If we have the money to do so and want to then yes we should.
Should we be expected to give money? Another clear no. And most importantly should we be expected to give 10% of our income? Does it take 10% of every single parishioners income to support the church? And who decides what amount that is? The amount each person should be giving. The church elders? Deacons? Church treasurer? Someone else hired to snoop into people's assets?
And before one person jumps to argue that is simply hypothetical and a bunch of hoopla on my part I can tell you this does occur. People aren't told this occurs because no one would be happy about someone(maybe someone they don't even know) digging into their personal financial business. And I'm certainly not suggesting every single church participates in this kind of behavior but many do.
A few years ago I was attending a church and had some problems that centered around a man I was dating at the time(a man who was part of the church and I won't go into the long sordid story of that debacle here). I was talking to the church's security guard who was a part of SLED. I talked to him on a number of occasions. Well, it was amongst these chats that he divulged what exactly it was they were doing concerning me. I think at the time he wanted to impress me with everything he could do and all the information he was able to put his hands on. It was at this time I found out they would run entire background checks on people. It wasn't just the man I was dating and me he was digging into. There were many others. I also found out that what he couldn't put his hands on they would get the local police to get the rest of the information.
They pull up a person's background file, they find out if you've ever been arrested, they find out if you've been divorced, if so they get all the little tidbits in that file, they find out your finances, what you own and where, where you bank and how much is there, they find out who your friends are, your family members, neighbors, if you go to school, classmates, etc. They find out where you live, what you drive and how much debt you are in, if any. There probably isn't anything they don 't look up about you.
I couldn't believe how much information they dug up about me. It was astonishing. They actually went back many, many years earlier to a man I had dated that had committed suicide and was bold enough to actually ask me about it. Later it was divulged to me that one of the elders was a retired State Bureau investigator who had taken the liberty of also snooping into my background and then giving that information to the church elders, deacons and anyone else he wanted to.
I was shocked and surprised that this went on but passed it off as being an isolated incident until later.
Eventually, I went to a new church and although they didn't do the exact same thing or on as a grand of a scale they did however pursue the information highway, my information highway, by asking far too personal questions. At first it wasn't too bad, they just wanted to know where I lived, what I drove and where I worked. Eventually, they wanted to know how much I earned.
And although I never told anyone where I lived and I'm not listed in any phone book, it wasn't long before they knew. They also knew what I owned and I hadn't given them that information either.
Take a good look at the makeup of the elders, deacons, treasurer(s) and anyone else high up the totem pole in the church. More than likely, there will be an attorney(he can also do information digging and if one goes to him for advice, counsel, representation, etc. within a few weeks or months if any sensitive information was divulged the deacons and elders will more than likely also have it). Yes that is illegal but being able to prove that in a court of law would be a timely, costly and unattainable venture. Not likely one a working person is going to take on. And if one should try this is the purpose of knowing as much information(bad information) as possible, dirt if you will, to discredit.
If you look there may be a law enforcement, ex law enforcement, retired officer or a private investigator on the elder or deacon list and if there isn't, one of the deacons or elders probably is friends with or has a family member who is a part of law enforcement that they turn to when they want to dig up information about a parishioner. This information will not be common knowledge. If they don't have someone like this they will still have one or more persons who gladly dig on anyone the church wants them too. These people all believe what they are doing is for the good of the church. These deacons and elders are all in a position of authority and the people doing their bidding never question them.
BTW, the money used to pay for these background checks and digging is paid for by the offerings. Of course it is considered a must have by the church and you will never know about this expense.
What does all this have to do with stewardship? Well, not a whole lot if you don't mind someone or maybe several people snooping into your private business and in fact think this is a good thing. If you believe the path to righteousness is other people telling you what to do with your money and assets and people snooping into it for the good of the church then being a good steward and giving ten percent of your income whether you can truly afford it or not is the right path to walk down.
This is by no means my way of suggesting no one give offerings. The church unfortunately doesn't run on love alone. It must be fed with money. Without money the modern church could not exist. The reason: No pastor is going to work for nothing, the utilities must be paid, the church must be kept up and be kept safe, etc. But how much does it take to do these things and these things alone?
Remember being a good steward doesn't just refer to giving to the church it can many things such as helping others less fortunate too.
I will wrap up part one and I will talk more about helping others in the next article.