Larry Johnston, executive vice president CAO at the Christian Research Institute, was recently on Hank Unplugged. Hank and Larry talked about the need for Christians to shift their paradigms on stewardship. The following is a snapshot of their conversation.
Hank Hanegraaff: There has been a dearth of good stewardship teaching in the church. As a result, we are far different today than the war generations were. War generations understood giving because a robust theology of stewardship was being communicated in churches. Today, that is not happening. In many churches and many traditions, the whole idea of tithing is lost on people, much the less freewill giving. So, there are now tippers, and not tithers, not knowing anything about freewill giving.
Part of what we are seeking to do today is to let people know that stewardship is not something that ought to be shunned in the church as though we have to apologize for it. The sin is not communicating to people the significance of stewardship and how they should be involved in stewardship. Let’s talk about that a little bit. Stewardship principles. We are talking about people getting involved with something that is transcendently important to such an extent that we can say with certainty — this is true of me and true of you — that if I really want to find out where your heart is, all I have to do is look at two things: one is your calendar and the other is your checkbook.
Larry Johnston: Both are quite revealing. You and I were chuckling earlier in the week when I told the story about the $100 bill and the $1 bill. Both were facing the end of their lives. They were off to the recycling plant. The $1 bill asked the $100 bill, “Well, as you come to the end of your run here, how was your life?” The $100 bill replied, “Oh, man! You won’t believe it. It was just fabulous. The resorts, the 5-star hotels, the 7-course meals, yachts, it was just absolutely an amazing life.” The $100 bill asked the $1 bill, “How about you?” The $1 bill replied, “Ah, man! My life was a drag. All I ever did was go to church, go to church, go to church.”
Humorous, but painfully humorous.
Hank: Yes, painfully humorous. Let’s talk about stewardship.
Larry: We have spent a lot of time talking about paradigms, because the truth be told, we do not think about our paradigms as much as we think with them. Paradigm shifts, while the term has become a bit trite, perhaps overused, I would contend that the great paradigm shift is the one I referred to briefly earlier, which is this: it is not how much of my money that I am going to give away; rather, it is how much of God’s resources do I need, and given the fact that I am on this planet for a brief season — Scripture will even use the metaphor of a vapor, we are like a passing vapor (James 4:14) — as I spend my years on this planet, is my mind focused on those things that have genuine eternal consequences, or am I just somewhat narcissistically focused upon me and my stuff?
Hank: So interesting. I have been moved by a specific biblical passage many times; it has to do with the prayer of David. It is very moving because he is thanking God for the privilege of being able to give to the work of the Lord. David said, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” and “now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chronicles 29:14, 17 NIV). What is interesting about this to me is this: if you go back to the history of the Israelites, they were taught to tithe. They were taught to give a tenth. Well, what David is now saying is they had graduated from tithing to giving joyously and giving willingly to one of the great projects in all of history, of course, at that time the project was building a temple. A temple where the Shekinah glory of the Lord would dwell among the people. It was a very worthwhile project, and the people who bought into the project thought, Through this project we can make an incredible difference. Indeed, they did because ultimately out of the temple comes another temple, and then out of the second temple comes a living temple. A temple not built by human hands. All of that was seeded actually by people who were giving generously at the time of David, a thousand years before Christ.
Larry: I think a part of the journey from a more impoverished notion of stewardship toward a more joyous notion of stewardship is the migration from what I must give to what I should give to what I get to give. It is a joy to be a conduit of God’s resources to bring about transformation in the world.
Listen to the full interview here.
For further reading on stewardship, please access the following equip.org resources:
Is the Tithe for Today? (Hank Hanegraaff)
What Is the Biblical View of Wealth? (Hank Hanegraaff)
What Does the Bible Teach about Debt? (Hank Hanegraaff)
The Good News about Capitalism (Hank Hanegraaff)
Tithing: Is it in the New Testament? (Revisited) (Elliot Miller)
Wealth and Stewardship: Key Biblical Principles (Michael W. Austin)
Also recommended are the following e-store resources:
Secure: Discovering Financial Freedom (B1080) by Rick Dunham
The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving (B679) by Randy Alcorn
The Law of Rewards: Giving What You Can’t Keep to Gain What You Can’t Lose (B776) by Randy Alcorn