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Pastor, Help—I’m Drowning

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Who of us, if we heard the cry of a drowning person, would not throw him a lifeline and draw him to the safety of the shoreline? Yet how many in our churches today are drowning in the sea of financial debt? And who’s manning the lifeline?

The American Bankers Association reports that the average American family carries $8,000 in credit card debt. Eighty percent of graduating college seniors have credit card debt before they even have a job, and 19 percent of the people who filed for bankruptcy last year were college students. According to The Consumer Report Money Book, the typical household has $38,000 in debt, NOT including home mortgages. A Marist Institute poll published in USA Today states that 55 percent of Americans “always” or “sometimes” worry about their money. And the stats go on and on . . .

Do we in the church have a solution that will bring financial freedom to the enslaved? The Bible has more to say about finances than it does about faith or love. One third of Jesus’ parables teach about how to manage material possessions. Why does God give us so much teaching on this subject? He knew that materialism would be His greatest rival for our devotion. Hear His Word: “‘No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money’” (Matt. 6:24).

Since He has revealed to us such extensive knowledge and we are admonished to teach “the whole Counsel of God,” church leaders must instruct their people in these matters. Jesus reveals four principles of handling finances in the parable of the talents. He begins with the principle of ownership. Material things (talents) do not belong to us but to God. “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1). “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim. 6:7). The second principle of stewardship teaches us that we have been given a most honored position; we are managers of that which belongs to God (1 Cor. 4:2). Then follows the principle of accountability. We must someday stand before Him and give an account of how we have managed that which He has “entrusted” to us. Finally, Jesus reveals to us His standard of judgment. It is not whether we have been successful, but whether we have been faithful. “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2, NKJV).

So where do we start in the church? There are three practical steps every Christ follower can take right now. First: Let’s let our lives speak! As divine prisms of purity and integrity, we must ensure that our own financial house is in order before calling others to accountability. We must consistently ask ourselves, “Am I giving to God’s work as I should? Am I doing everything in my power to avoid debt? Does any part of my life reflect an unhealthy pursuit of material possessions? Do I truly believe and practice that everything I have belongs to God and that I am only His steward?”

Second, every pastor should consider preaching at least one sermon (if not a whole series) on stewardship annually. This poses challenges to preachers who are often hesitant to address the subject for fear of a negative response from some parishioners. Clergy and lay leaders must help their congregations understand that the biblical management of time, talents and material possessions is critical to living out their Christian faith. As a pastor, are you willing to take this courageous step? As a layperson, are you willing to encourage and challenge your pastor in this area?

Third, every church should offer, at least annually, a course that teaches people how to be good stewards of God’s resources. There are several excellent programs with sound biblical bases: Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org), Good Sense (Goodsensebus@willowcreek.org) and Financial Peace University (DaveRamsey.com) are among the best.

How do we keep people from drowning? By teaching them how to swim! Let’s commit to modeling and molding sound biblical stewardship within the Church so she can maximize her potential to change the world. Imagine how God can unleash His resources through His Body to accomplish His purposes on earth!

ALLIANCE CORE VALUE

Everything we have belongs to God. We are only stewards. (1 Chron. 29:14)

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