Ministry Doesn’t Happen Until This Happens First

Whether it’s giving daughters and sons or dollars and cents, generous stewardship precedes everything God does to spread his kingdom.

“A few hours ago, I received word that my mother had a stroke. mom lives in Washington state, and Jane and I live in Japan where we have been church-planting for 28 years. Mom has been a widow now for 12 years, and I have no siblings. My mother gave her only child for Japan. Please pray for her and for me as I arrange a trip home.”

I received this email several years ago (names changed), and it has always stuck with me. The mother of this missionary was willing to give her only child so Japanese could hear the gospel.

Missions is a costly venture. First, the individual called into cross-cultural work must surrender his or her own plans. Second, parents must be willing to say goodbye to children and grandchildren for long periods of time. Third, the local church must be willing to release and commission some of its most committed and gifted members. Fourth, many others must give time in prayer to uphold these servants. And finally, financial gifts of all sizes are needed to send and sustain these international workers.

Have you ever reflected on how giving is a part of God’s eternal economy? God demonstrates giving in many ways. Through creation, he gave us existence. Through common grace, he provides good gifts to everyone. His most generous act was sending Christ as a perfect sacrifice for our salvation. God is a giver, and we are who are created in God’s image are meant to be givers.

Nothing happens in ministry until someone gives. Pause and consider the ramifications of removing the giving element from ministry.

  • If someone doesn’t prepare a meal for a shut-in, will the person go hungry? If someone won’t provide the automobile and time to deliver the meal will the person be helped?
  • What if nobody volunteers to care for the children in the nursery or to teach Sunday school? Will young families stay home and not attend church?
  • Would God ask you to give some unused furniture or kitchen items to a refugee family? Will this new immigrant family meet a Christian if nobody reaches out to them?
  • How will the lost hear without someone preaching (see Romans 10:14-15)? How will those called to take the gospel go unless others support and send them?

Satan knows if people do not give time, talent, or treasure that ministry simply will not happen. Biblical stewardship, especially in a consumer-driven culture like that of North America, is often a real spiritual battle. Generous living is part of God’s plan to combat the grip of materialism in our life.

Do we make it our practice to “seek first the kingdom of God” (cf. Matthew 6:33), or do we give what is left over after building our own kingdoms? In Luke 12, we read about a rich man that God called a fool right before he died. What an epitaph! Yet so is the one who “lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (v. 21). Similarly, in Acts 20:35, Jesus is quoted, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Do we believe this?

Without comparing your own stewardship to others, ask: am I growing in generosity? Is God calling my to use my skills and talents cross-culturally? How am I serving in my local church and community? Do I manage my time well? Would God have me make changes in any of these areas?