Last time you saw my face on the back of this newspaper I explained the first of five reasons why I practice stewardship: because it’s easy. I confessed that when I compare material surrender to other types of internal surrender, I find financial stewardship to be easier than those more important parts of the Christian life. I also argued that stewardship is just as applicable to time, energy and talent, as it is to money, and therefore our paradigm for stewardship should encompass everything—not just a meager ten percent of our finances. This week will allow us a look at the second of my five reasons for practicing a radical stewardship: because I feel like it.
It is a cruel tactic to lower the biblical standard of righteousness by downplaying the role of feelings in Christian obedience. Godly emotions are commanded on every page of the Bible: joy, heart-felt peace, gratitude, fear, zeal, grief, contrition, and eagerness—just to mention a few (Mt 10:28, Col 3:15, Rom 12:11,15, Ps 51:17, Eph 5:20, 1 Pt 5:1-2). Emotion is inseparably tied to obedience.
Giving is no exception. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). I realize that we have heard Christian teachers tell us that the Christian life is not about emotions, but my Bible tells me to give “cheerfully.” It’s true that the biblical scope of obedience goes beyond my feelings to include my every action (1 Cor 10:31). However, that doesn’t mean that my emotions aren’t important. I find it biblically necessary to refuse a false dichotomy which forces me to choose between emotions and action. I must give (action) cheerfully (emotion). Both are commanded of me in the Bible—particularly with respect to giving.
If we give just because we have to, we do not glorify God. God demands that we give cheerfully. Therefore, I strive by the grace of God not just to give, but to feel like giving. That is, I strive to have the feeling of cheerfulness at the thought of giving my whole life to the things of God. Money is just one small, relatively easy part of that.