There’s an online video that could have been titled “The French Fries Tax.” It tells about kids at McDonald’s (or the like) with their parents, who buy them french fries. What kid doesn’t like french fries? As they eat, one of the parents, perhaps knowing that at their age, fries might not be the healthiest fare—doesn’t order their own but, instead, reaches over and grabs a fry from one of the kids. And then, maybe another one, or even two?
The child doesn’t like it, but then the point is made: Who bought them the fries to begin with? Who paid for them? Who, in a sense, owned them but gave them as a gift to the children?
Though the video is intended for kids, it has a very adult lesson about “stewardship.” Most everyone has heard of stewardship, or of the noun steward, from which it is derived, but many don’t realize just how much of a biblical principle the concept of stewardship is. The principle of stewardship permeates the Bible, sometimes openly and sometimes more implied, but one way or another—it is prevalent.
What is biblical stewardship, and why should we follow it?
who made your mouth?
Early in the Bible, in the book of Exodus, God appeared to Moses and told him that he was to lead the children of Israel, long enslaved in Egypt, to freedom in the Promised Land. Moses, to say the least, didn’t relish the assignment and was looking for a way out. He knows that it’s not going to be easy to convince the Hebrews to leave Egypt and even harder to convince the Egyptians to let them leave.
Moses then comes up with a ploy, arguing, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).1 In other words, knowing that it’s going to take a lot of persuasion, a lot of fancy talk, to get the parties to agree on this move, Moses argues that he himself just isn’t a great speaker.
God’s response was brief and to the point. “So the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth?’ ” (verse 11). What a powerful, even irrefutable, answer. God is the one who made human mouths, including Moses’, and so He knows what can or cannot be done with them, despite Moses’ excuse.
And though this account is, generally, not used to support the concept of biblical stewardship, it presents a foundational principle behind stewardship, which is this: whatever abilities or talents we have, whatever we possess, it comes always and only from God. Once you understand that idea, you understand the essence of stewardship.
nothing created itself
There’s a philosophical argument for the existence of God called the cosmological argument. However complicated the back-and-forth might get, it’s easy to understand: nothing created itself. It’s not just that Moses didn’t create himself (including his mouth)—but anything that at any point did not exist but then came into existence did not bring itself into existence. Something could not have created itself because it would have already had to exist before it was created—which is absurd. So, anything that was created was, of course, created by something else existing before it.
The book of John, talking about Jesus, says about Him: “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). That is, anything that was made that once didn’t exist but then came into existence did so only through Christ, the Creator. The Lord Jesus is the source, and the foundation, of all creation.
This means, then, that everything we have or own has come only through Jesus, our Creator, who possesses the earth and all that exists on it. “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm. 24:1).
“For every beast of the forest is Mine,
And the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the mountains,
And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. . . .
“For the world is Mine, and all its fullness” (Psalm 50:10–12).
Whatever your gifts, they are just that—gifts, something given to you, something that you were born with and that you didn’t give yourself any more than Moses gave himself a mouth. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Whatever way we earn our living, through our hands, our mouths, our brains, our skills, everything ultimately comes from God, the One in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
As the children of Israel approached the Promised Land, where they would be greatly blessed with material things (flocks, herds, crops, gold, and silver), they were warned against believin “my power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). That would be a mistake. In the next verse, they are told: “Remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (verse 18).
This idea was aptly expressed later when David, seeking contributions from the people for the temple, which his son Solomon would build, praised God for all the material that came in.
“But who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You” (1 Chronicles 29:14).
It could all be summarized by the line, “And of Your own, we have given You.” In fact, the very word stewardship reflects this idea: a steward is someone who takes care of and is responsible for what belongs to someone else.
tithe and offerings
With these principles in mind, we approach the question of how believers are to express biblical principles of stewardship. The most obvious, of course, is how they spend their money. It is an open window into the soul. Though having money, even lots of it, is never condemned in the Bible, greed and the love of money are. “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
One of the best ways to avoid the dangerous trap of greed and love for money is by giving tithe and offerings—the foundation of biblical stewardship. The principle goes back to the patriarch Abraham, who paid tithe, which means a “tenth,” to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:20), a “priest of the Most High God” (Hebrews 7:1, 6). In other words, the principle of giving tithe predated the Jewish nation. It was introduced long before the time of Moses, but it remained central to the nation’s worship of God and their well-being in general.
The New Testament teaches the same principle: the Lord owns everything, and, as His children, we are responsible for the gifts He has given us—all that we possess. In fact, one could argue that tithing helps us acknowledge God, not only as our Creator but also, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, as our Redeemer. That is why the New Testament is filled with lessons and examples of stewardship (Luke 19:12–27; Acts 2:44, 45; 11:29; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7, 11–13; 1 Timothy 5:8; Matthew 25:14–30, 31–46).
In a sense, the faithful payment of tithes and offerings by Christian believers is a real and tangible way of putting their money where their mouth is. Anyone can claim to love the Lord, but it is another matter to take 10 percent of what you earn—what God owns and has made you a steward of—and to return it (notice the use of the word return, which means you are simply giving it back) to Him. Taking it out of your own pocket and putting it to use in God’s work takes an act of faith. You have to really believe in order to do that.
Lord, increase my faith
As he threw his tithe, 10 percent of his income, into the collection plate at church, a man silently prayed, “O, Lord, increase my faith.” And that is exactly what happened! By tithing, by acting in faith, by putting his money where his mouth was—this man’s faith increased. Every act of faith increases faith. It is something that you have to experience for yourself.
Besides giving 10 percent, there is the whole question of giving additional offerings for whatever projects you might deem worthy. God alone knows all of the worthy projects out there that our free will offerings and gifts can help, but the theme of helping the needy jumps off the pages of the Old Testament and shouts at us from the New as well. John says it so clearly,
Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:17, 18; see also Leviticus 19:9, 10, 15; Proverbs 14:21; 29:7; Matthew 25:40; 1 John 3:17, 18).
Though there are other ways to do it, generous offerings given out of gratitude to God can go a long way toward helping those in need. And what better way to express your faith than by giving to the less fortunate? As Jesus has said, “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).
In “this season of giving,” every one of us would do well to remember the One who has given us everything. In short, put your money where your mouth is. The faithful return of tithes and generously giving offerings remain now just what they were in Abraham’s and Moses’ times—the most tangible way to express our faith in God.
Like the kid in the video, you didn’t pay for the fries. So, don’t begrudge giving gifts to others out of the bounty you have received from the great Giver. Considering what He has given us and done for us, it’s the least we can do in return.
James Morgan is a freelance writer and contributes regularly to Signs of the Times®.
1. Bible verses in this article are from the New King James Version.