February 5, 2021

Stewardship Scenarios: Swimming

In most congregations, there’s a segment of people who have significant resources.  This was true in the early church; on two different occasions we see church members selling some of their resources to provide for the needs of the congregation (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-36).  Jesus’ ministry was supported by several women of means (Luke 8:2-3), and we see Zacchaeus using his resources to help the poor upon his conversion (Luke 19:1-9).  If your stewardship ministry is not equipping these people as faithful stewards, you’re missing a segment of the population that needs discipleship in this area.

Are they Financially Free?

We might be tempted to look on the surface and say, “Of course these people are financially free – look at all they have.”  But possessions, savings accounts, and investments are not in and of themselves indications of financial freedom.  Jesus said, “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

The thing is, these people are financially OK but they often don’t realize it.  There’s a subtle temptation as wealth increases to begin to rely on that wealth for security, rather than trusting in God’s provision. Driven by fear of economic downtown or other unexpected occurrences, people in this situation can become relentless in their pursuit of earning and saving. With all that they have, they’re not free.

These folks need a sense of abundance.  They often live with a scarcity mindset, afraid to spend or to give because they fear not having enough – though in reality they have enough and more.  Though they really do have an abundance of resources, they live as though they don’t – and as a result deprive themselves and others of the blessings God means to provide for them.

What are the Financial Indicators?

People in this setting have a significantly positive cash flow. They may have some consumer debt, but may not worry about it because the interest charges are minimal to them. They may or may not have a mortgage and car payment, depending on their view of debt; but in any case, they are in no danger of not being able to meet their obligations.

These folks have considerable net worth – their assets significantly outweighing their liabilities. They likely have a good credit score and they are earning and saving plenty.  They may or may not be tracking where the money goes, since they have more than enough.

Saving is the name of the game for people in this condition. They have more than enough emergency savings and are on track to have significantly more than they need for retirement.  They may be giving regularly but may not have thought about tithing. Often, they have untapped opportunities to make Kingdom impact with their resources.

What do they need?

The key spiritual needs in this situation are faith and a sense of mission. Faith to trust in God rather than their wealth for security.  A sense of being on mission with God, making use of the resources he has provided. Peter Parker (aka, Spiderman) lived by the mantra, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Jesus put it this way: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

Vision beyond themselves is a key need here. These folks need a Kingdom mission that they can be passionate about – not only with their finances, but with their lives.

Finally, people in this scenario need a God-given sense of balance. Once the basic needs are met, is God empowering them to earn significantly more in order to finance Kingdom-impacting projects? Or is he calling them to dial back on earning in order to spend more time with family or in volunteer efforts? Of course, this is not a question a stewardship ministry can answer, but it is a question we need to challenge people to pray about.

What’s next?

The key realization for these folks is that legacy is about much more than just accumulated wealth. We all know that “we can’t take it with us”, but some folks allow the idea of leaving it for the next generation to drive them well past healthy earning and saving. Relationships, vision, and Kingdom focus are even more important to leave as a legacy than earthly wealth.

The key decision here is to answer the question, “When is enough, enough?”  Partly this is a question of lifestyle cap – how much is really needed in order to live a God-honoring lifestyle and provide for family, etc. And partly it’s a question of saving – how much is needed to provide for later years. The latter question may not be easy to answer, given uncertainties about the future, but there should be an effort to estimate this and to balance between wise preparation for the future and Kingdom impact and relationships in the present.

With regard to giving, people in this situation need to be challenged to consider the tithe as a starting point.  The real “fun” can come in going beyond the tithe to set up a “Generosity Fund” – an amount of money set aside to use to fulfill needs as God brings them.  Such giving can make people more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit, as they hear and respond to the needs he brings.  This brings us full cycle back to the anecdotes in Acts 2 and 4, which are examples of this kind of generosity.

What does success look like?

Success is often a matter of changing focus – away from finances (which these folks have already taken care of) and toward relationships, mission, and Kingdom impact. Spiritual legacy, missional lifestyle, and discipling the next generation in generosity provide great focus points for people with this level of resources.

Getting free for people in this scenario is often a matter of taking charge and making decisions. Instead of allowing career to dictate how many hours per week to work, they determine how much of their lives will be given to work, and draw a line in the sand. Rather than chasing financial security with an ever-present goal of “a little more”, they make an informed choice about how much they need and devote resources beyond that to kingdom work. Instead of simply assuming that the next raise means another step up in lifestyle, they create a lifestyle cap and free up finances beyond that for other purposes.

In short, success here looks like living with purpose. Of course, all of us should have this goal. But people living with abundance have an opportunity to concentrate on purpose, since they have less worry about meeting basic needs. A stewardship ministry that infuses them with a sense of purpose disciples them effectively and makes significant Kingdom impact.