LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--A full exegesis of Article 13 of the Baptist Faith and Message would consume a lengthy volume and yield fruitful discourse. At least three topics deserve our attention here.
First, God owns everything, and therefore we are to be stewards of all he gives us. A basic tenet of a Christian worldview holds that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. As Creator he thus owns all that is or ever will be. He owns our lives and bodies, our health and welfare, our goods and possessions and even the air we breathe.
In his wisdom and providence, he has placed in our hands and at our disposal certain blessings and gifts for our use for his glory. We, in turn, are thus responsible for using his blessings for his glory, our benefit and the welfare of others.
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 makes clear that our responsibility is to multiply the gifts given to us by God. A thoughtful stewardship of all that we have is part of our Christian discipleship.
A second topic for our consideration is the command given in Scripture for us to give "cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally ..." to the Lord's work.
The command to tithe is clearly given in the Old Testament. Some have argued that since the tithe is not mentioned in a positive way in the New Testament, the tithing injunction does not apply to Christians.
In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul says "Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of the week each of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collection be made when I come." And again in 2 Corinthians 9:6 he writes "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully."
The New Testament teaches that Christians should give even above the tithe as God so blesses. The tithe is not done away with in the New Testament, but a greater principle of giving is placed upon the disciple of Christ. Christians are to give sacrificially as God blesses them.
Jesus commends the widow in Mark 12:41-44 who had put into the treasury "more than all the contributors" because she "out of her poverty, put in all she owned." May the Lord find us faithful in giving above and beyond the tithe.
A final topic mentioned in Article 13 is the motivation for our stewardship -- the glory of God and the benefit of others. Stewardship obviously involves more than our income or possessions but refers to every aspect of our lives.
Giving of our means is part of true Christian worship. Taking care of our bodies likewise is part of our stewardship so that we can serve God with all of our might. We work in order to be able not only to provide for ourselves and our families, but so that we might give to the Lord's work.
Southern Seminary has been blessed by those who were so motivated that, for God's glory and the benefit of the Kingdom, they have provided money to help train, educate and prepare God-called men and women for faithful service.
In our materialistic society we must challenge believers to work not for bigger houses and better cars, but so that they might give to the Lord's work around the world. God's glory should be the driving force behind how we use all the gifts and possessions that God has placed in our care.
At the end of our lives may we be found as faithful stewards of all that he has entrusted to us.
Walker is vice president for institutional advancement at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
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Full text of Article 13: Stewardship
God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause on earth.Genesis 14:20; Leviticus 27:30-32; Deuteronomy 8:18; Malachi 3:8-12; Matthew 6:1-4,19-21; 19:21; 23:23; 25:14-29; Luke 12:16-21,42; 16:1-13; Acts 2:44-47; 5:1-11; 17:24-25; 20:35; Romans 6:6-22; 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; 6:19-20; 12; 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8-9; 12:15; Philippians 4:10-19; 1 Peter 1:18-19.
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