“Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; among whom you appear as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)
The worst time to preach on money is when you need some, pastor. The second worst time is when the church needs some.
The best time to preach on money is all the other times.
That said, here are a number of cautions for you to consider before walking into that lion's den to tame the monster called greed.
1. Get your own house in order.
Now, it’s possible to preach on prayer while knowing you have a long way to go in that respect. You can preach on good works and witnessing even if your record is spotty. You can do so because everyone has room for improvement in these areas. But when it comes to giving/stewardship, you can know when you are doing well.
The Christian is to be a giver. That means a hefty portion of his/her income will go into the church offering (whether you call it a tithe or something else), and believers will also be generous to the poor, to the needy around them, even to their enemies. (Luke 6:30-35)
So, unless you are faithful in giving to your church, kind to the beggars you meet on the street and generous in your tips to waiters and waitresses, hold off about preaching on stewardship. You have a bit of catching up to do.
2. Know your congregation.
Make sure they will receive this. Not all congregations are alike. Some will rejoice at a good tithing/stewardship sermon, while others will organize a lynch mob.
Last Sunday, I brought a stewardship message to a local church (I was the visiting preacher) and was “amened” throughout. That is no infallible measurement of anything, of course, but it’s a good sign for a congregation that they welcome this kind of message.
3. Make sure you are not operating in the flesh, but in the Spirit.
That is, consider whether this sermon is a good idea of yours because the financial need in the church is great. Has the Lord specifically laid this on your heart? Or, are you angry at the way the deacons shut down your request for a raise?
If you can’t tell the difference between the two – preaching in the Spirit and in the flesh – you’re already in trouble. (This is not to say we cannot preach on stewardship when the financial need in the church is reaching the critical point. Only that we must do so “in the Spirit,” meaning the Lord leads us to do this, leads us to the sermon and empowers the proclamation.)
Paul said, “Let each of us do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:7)
4. Keep stewardship of one’s entire life uppermost in mind.
What one does with his money is not the whole story. It’s a big part of the story, but there are many other things to consider too.
Paul said of the Macedonians, “They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” (II Corinthians 8:5) Only then were they able to bring the kind of offering which would please the Father. In another place he said, “For I do not seek yours but you.” He told the Philippians, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” (Phil. 4:17)
The church member who wants to fight the preacher who said God wants him to tithe has a problem and it’s not a financial one. He is in rebellion against God, and the wallet-protection thing is just the symptom.
Call people to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice,” pastor. (Romans 12:1) Once they make this commitment, everything else falls into place.
How can you measure the success of an idea? Whether or not it spreads.
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