If you pastor a church in a low-income area, giving might be an uncomfortable subject to approach. Even if you aren’t necessarily in a low-income area, but you have many congregants on fixed incomes, you might have the same discomfort. How do you inspire people to give to the church when they may not really have it to give?
I grew up in a denomination with a reputation of preaching about money. On those Sundays, “Trust, Try, and Prove Me” was normally one of the congregational hymns on the schedule. Not that the subject shouldn’t be preached—it should—because money is a part of overall stewardship. A congregation can handle strong preaching on many subjects; but for some reason, people seem to become touchy when a preacher delivers a sermon dealing with finances and giving. “All he ever does is preach about money,” some say, when in actuality the pastor may just be giving his once-a-year stewardship message. People can become turned off by you or your church just because of the sermon topic.
So how should a pastor approach the subject? The Bible is full of examples, and I am sure what I am about to say will not be a news bulletin. The most important thing to encourage, even in a low-income area is stewardship. This applies to all areas of life, not just money. A person doesn’t have to have a lot of money to be a good steward.
The biblical precedent for stewardship is the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. The servants in that passage were judged based on how they managed what had been entrusted to them, not the amount. Even those with little money are entrusted with something and should be faithful with how they manage their resources.
Speaking specifically about tithing, many stewardship sermons are based on Malachi 3:10, which says:
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.”
I have heard more than one preacher or speaker say they would rather live on 90 percent of their income with God than to try to live on 100 percent without Him. When I was a child, my dad would divide his tithe money among everyone in our house so we all went to church with an offering. Looking back now, I see he was teaching my brother and me about tithing.
The story of the widow’s mite gives an example of a person with very little money being faithful. Found in Mark 12:41-44 and in Luke’s gospel, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had” (Luke 21:1-4).
The total amount of money given to the church is normally a matter of record; but past that, the preacher has no need to know who in the church is tithing and how much an individual person is giving. The pastor’s job is to preach the whole counsel of God, including the subject of giving and stewardship. The rest is the Holy Spirit’s work.
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.