Recently one of our readers suggested that I write something about our stewardship during the COVID-19 crisis.
No doubt many of our readers, if not all to some degree, have been affected financially by the pandemic. Some have been laid off. Others lost jobs. Everyone’s retirement portfolios have shrunk a bit, if not a lot. Add to that, churches have not been meeting. So collections have not been taken.
Churches, however, continue to have obligations that must be met whether they have been meeting in their buildings or not. Preachers have continued to work, often learning new skills and technology to teach and preach remotely. Furthermore, brethren in difficult areas and in some foreign countries have been hit harder than we have in the United States.
With the reader’s request, it occurred to me that we’ve written and posted a lot about attitudes during the pandemic. About having faith over fear. About in-home worship services. About observing the Lord’s supper at home. About our overall demeanor and responsibilities during this crisis. However, very little has been said about our financial obligations.
Consider these stewardship principles during this current crisis.
#1 Remember that God is the owner of everything. And I am the manager. The steward. “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Hag. 2:8). As stewards, we are to be faithful with everything in which we’ve been entrusted (1 Cor. 4:2; Lk.16:10). In small things. Large matters. All things. In good times. And in difficult times.
#2 God deserves first place in our lives. The Old Testament calls this the “first fruits” (Ex 23:9). The wise man advised, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the first fruits of all your increase” (Prov. 3:9). This means first giving ourselves to God (2 Cor. 8:4-6). Financially, it’s not giving God what is left over, but what we purpose, plan and build our budget around (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
#3 Giving should be done cheerfully, joyfully, and voluntarily. It should not be forced, coerced, or done under any kind of emotional or spiritual duress (2 Cor. 9:7). This may be one reason why so little has been said about giving during the past few months. No preacher or church wants to appear overly concerned about money during these challenging and uncertain times. Yet, the reality is that bills come due. And obligations must be met.
#4 Stewardship deals with our present resources. I’ve heard people say, “If I won a million dollars, I’d give it to the church.” Well, that’s not the point. What are you doing now with what you have? Stewardship begins with today.
Furthermore, our financial capacity changes. Sometimes for the better. Other times for the worse. God does not require us to give what we don’t have. We give on the basis of what we do have (2 Cor. 8:12). For those whose income has decreased or even has been eliminated, you shouldn’t feel guilty about your decreased giving. However, others may be doing as well, or in a few cases even better.
Considering these principles, it’s important to catch up on our giving, based on our purpose and prosperity, as we resume assembling again. Not only does the local work need our financial support, but consider preachers we’re supporting in other countries. They are dependent on those monthly support checks to feed their families, pay their bills, and engage in their ministry. Often these men are under-supported, to begin with, and so late checks or a decrease in support puts them in a perilous monetary situation.
In addition, there are a number of benevolent needs that have arisen, not only in our country but around the world. So, financial needs have not decreased but increased during this pandemic.
Many have been richly blessed materially and have not suffered financial hardship. For some people, although plans have changed and adjustments have been made, life continues on very comfortably. We see people taking vacations. Eating out. Driving new cars. Purchasing homes. Buying stuff from Amazon. Making investments. And enjoying creature comforts.
During such times, let’s each seek ways to help others. See their needs. Then look deep within our hearts, and seize the opportunities we have to do good.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal. 6:9-10).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman