GLEANINGS FROM THE SCRIPTURES
A Theology of Stewardship
By Keith L. Estes
Competition for the Christian's dollar among churches, religious organizations, and other benevolent groups is conducted on a level today that removes giving from the area of a spiritual grace. A Wisconsin State College history professor made a telling point when he concluded in his study of Protestant giving that the doctrine of stewardship has not "had much to do with actual human motivation at either the level of promotion or the level of giving."
If evangelicals do have a theology of stewardship and giving, it is difficult to recognize it in their efforts to raise money- efforts which range all the way from a super-pious "this is a faith work" to the more crass "I'm doing you a favor to relieve you of some of your money." Since believers are bombarded with appeals through the mail, from the pulpit, at banquets, and over the radio, (and television), how can they be expected to arrive at any Scriptural view of giving?
The local church and non-church related works must bear much of the blame for this deplorable state of affairs. If believers are not taught a Scriptural doctrine of stewardship, can they be expected to give intelligently and can they be expected to realize that giving is indeed as vital a spiritual ministry as witnessing, reading the Bible, and praying.
If the appeals are based on the techniques of modern advertising and selling, will not the response be the same? Hence, the glamorous, the emotional, the "squeaking wheel" type of promotion gets the best response. Fund raising has become a science with "proven" results. Where is the work of God the Holy Spirit in this? How does the believer come to know the blessed thrill of his gift becoming "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing unto God?" (Phil. 4:18)
On the other hand, Christians must understand that they cannot excuse themselves from giving just because much of the technique of fund raising does not measure up to Scriptural standards. There is no excuse for not giving. But giving must be in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, which may or may not come through an appeal letter or a desperate pulpit, radio or, (television) plea.
The solution ought never to be one of expedience to achieve the desired goal. If it seems that Christians are not giving as much as they should, this is no reason for financial appeals to degenerate to the methods of modern salesmanship. If a person resents emotional, long-winded appeals this is no reason for him not to give. Asker and giver ought to be motivated by that which is completely in harmony with the example of Scripture. The Apostle Paul was not embarrassed to write of his needs. He reminded the churches of their duty to give, but he never resorted to begging...He taught that giving was indeed a spiritual sacrifice that brought fruit to the account of those who gave.
Ref. From "The Sunday School Times", 1962, p. 455.