Lecture 5 – The Honest Steward: A Man With a Calculator

In this chapter we want to look at (1) honesty (2) stewardship, and then apply that specifically to (3) honest stewardship of money.

I. Honesty

Honesty is a basic for ministry. One of the ways God keep us honest is by helping us to keep a good conscience.
Conscience is the inner voice in every person that tells us that we ought to do God’s will. If we do, it will comfort and encourage us, regardless of painful external circumstances. If we don’t, it will accuse and pain us, regardless of external comfort. Someone once said, “Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.” That’s why Richard Sibbes said that “conscience is either the greatest friend or the greatest enemy in the world.” As such, it has been given various names over the years: God’s spokesman, God’s deputy, God’s watchman, God’s sergeant, God’s preacher, God’s whisper.
Even the unconverted recognize the existence and benefits of conscience. The late Christopher Reeve (of Superman fame) said, “I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don’t know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do.” But let’s move towards the Bible’s teaching on conscience.
The Apostle Paul said he was always striving to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. (Acts 24:16). This good conscience, this clean and clear conscience was the great power behind Paul’s life. It changed Paul’s world, and through him changed the whole world. Let’s look at how he arrived at that.

A. He educated it

Adam and Eve were born with perfect consciences, with perfect knowledge of right and wrong, and with a clear voice reminding them of what was right and what was wrong. However, they rejected that knowledge and disobeyed that voice by sinning in the garden of Eden. This resulted in serious damage to their and our consciences. Instead of our consciences communicating knowledge of God’s will, sin filled our consciences with guilt, shame, and fear. This in turn suppressed the volume of God’s inner voice, muffling it and mixing it up. Yet, even the most heathen people can still hear God’s voice from time to time (Rom. 2:15). God shares his knowledge of His moral law even with them.
But due to the effect of sin on our consciences, and its subsequent fallibility, we need to have our consciences re-educated. Our lack of information and our misinformation must be replaced with divine information. And that only comes through God’s Word. Alphonse De Lamartine said: “A conscience without God is like a court without a judge.” That’s why before claiming possession of a good conscience in verse 16, Paul said in verse 14 that he believed “all things written in the law and the prophets.”
There are many who claim to have a clear conscience, whereas what they really have is an uninformed conscience, or a badly educated conscience, often resulting in an insensitive conscience. A badly educated conscience though can also produce an oversensitive conscience (1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12). People can think something is wrong when nothing is wrong.
That’s where we must begin then, with an educated conscience, with a conscience informed and taught by the Word of God. That’s why Luther stood before his accusers at Worms and said, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

B. He exercised it

In verse 16 Paul said, that he was always exercising and exerting himself to have a good conscience. The word here for “exercise” is the word for a gymnast’s or athlete’s activity. It is also used of a drill sergeant. In other words, Paul was stirring up his conscience to action; he was making it think and work. He was challenging it, prodding it, training it, and calling it to action.
Paul really portrayed the conscience like a muscle that has to be exercised to be healthy. And he said he was exercising it “always.” Paul was not a Sunday jogger. He was “always” exercising. He never had a day off. In every area of life he was prodding his conscience, stirring it up, commanding it to speak: “What should I do with this church? What should I do with my money? What should I say to this person?”
But he went on to say that he exercised it for a purpose. He was not just exercising conscience for fun, or as a philosophical pastime. It was not enough for Paul to have an internal debate or discussion; right action had to follow. His aim was that his conscience would be literally “without a stumbling block.” He was picturing his good conscience as a runner moving swiftly along a smooth road without obstacle, impediment, or pain. And he implies that when conscience is rejected and disobeyed, that it’s like running into a sharp piece of rock that bruises and bloodies us. The resulting pain is to turn us around and put us back on the right track. But if we resist and stubbornly keep going, the Bible teaches us that we will harden and sear our conscience so that it is no longer sensitive to pain. The author Izaak Walton said, “The person that loses their conscience has nothing left worth keeping.”
If we exercise our conscience in one area of life, we will strengthen it for all other areas of life. But if we offend it without repenting in one area of life, we will be desensitized in every area of life. If we steal from our employer, it becomes much easier to abuse alcohol, and commit immorality. If we give up one doctrine, say the literal creation of the world in six days, it becomes much easier to give up other doctrines like the historical Adam, etc.
If we have calloused and seared our consciences, the way to re-sensitize it is to bring it back to the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14; 10:22). In fact, daily application to Christ’ blood is an essential element in the exercise of a good conscience.

C. He was encouraged by it

Paul was one of the most courageous men ever to live on this earth. His unshakeable courage is clearly in view in Acts chapter 24. Unjustly charged with serious death-deserving crimes, prosecuted by one of the top attorneys of the Roman world, and being judged by the corrupt Roman governor Felix, he does not flinch. He speaks boldly as he denies the most serious charges and then goes on to accuse his accusers of grave injustice in their handling of his case. But his self-defence has a greater purpose than his own release. He defends himself and clears himself of the most serious charges that he might have a bridgehead from which to launch an all-out attempt to win Felix’s soul for the Lord. His good conscience gave him the courage to defend himself and to “attack” the conscience of Felix with the Gospel. His clear conscience in the face of multiple false accusations gave him confidence before God and, therefore, also men.
Perhaps this explains the cowardice that we so often see not just in public life but also in church life and in our individual lives. Instead of being driven by conscience, many are motivated by opinion polls, majority votes, peer pressure, family considerations, and potential consequences. And though many people may approve our “wise” decisions and “reasonable” actions, we cannot silence the loud internal voice saying, “Thou shalt…and thou shalt not.”
Martin Luther King said: “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular?’ But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”
Guilty consciences turn us into cowards in every area of life. If we do not have confidence before God, we will not have it before men. The loud protesting inner voice will quieten or silence our public voice. But if we keep a clear conscience before God, we can courageously stand before men, not just to defend ourselves but also to evangelize and witness for Christ.

D. He enjoyed it

A good conscience is a great friend. It helps in prosperity and in adversity. It strengthens in life and comforts in death. And Paul knew that he was facing death. In verse 15 he preaches the resurrection and final judgment of all. And it’s in that context that he declares his clear conscience. In other words, he has his eye on the last court he shall ever stand in, and he speaks of this as a “hope.” He looks forward to this. He can think on this with pleasure. All because he knows he has a clear conscience.
What a joy to have such a conscience, a conscience that can look forward to the resurrection and final judgment with hope. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Honest arranged for Good-conscience to meet him at the Jordan to help him over to “the other side.” We hope we will be able to do the same when we close our eyes for the last time. As an old Puritan said: “There is no pillow so soft as a good conscience.” A good conscience can sleep in thunder.
Throughout his administration, Abraham Lincoln was a president under fire, especially during the scarring years of the Civil War. And though he knew he would make errors of office, he resolved never to compromise his integrity. So strong was this resolve that he once said, “I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reigns of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me.”
And what a terrible experience to lack this! In The Holy War John Bunyan named conscience “Mr. Recorder,” and portrayed his role and impact vividly: “Mr. Recorder was a man well-read in the laws of his king and also a man of courage and faithfulness to speak truth at every occasion. He could make the whole town of Mansoul shake with his voice.” That’s why some criminals today will confess to crimes they are not accused of, because being punished by men can be better than being tormented by conscience.
To be living with an accusing conscience is misery enough, but to die with conscience witnessing against us, is even worse. And death does not silence it either. Jesus called it “the worm that never dies.” Hell turns up the volume of conscience and stirs it into relentless torment and trouble. Author George Crabbe wrote: “Oh, Conscience! Conscience! man’s most faithful friend, Him canst thou comfort, ease, relieve, defend; But if he will thy friendly checks forego, Thou art, oh! woe for me, his deadliest foe!”
The Reformation revolution was powered by Bible-bound human consciences. Again and again Luther was close to compromising with church authorities, but God’s inner voice strengthened him to stand with God. The testimony of a good conscience enabled him to stand firm, even if the whole church was against him: “My conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.”
May God bless us with similar strong and clear consciences that will not only change our inner world, but through us will change the world we live in as well.


II. Stewardship

“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
A. A steward is a manager not a Lord
A steward was a man who managed the affairs of a household or a family. He was not the master but the manager that the master entrusted with huge responsibility. This was quite a contrast to the Pharisaical model of leadership that portrayed a much more masterly authority, seeing themselves as lords of God’s household. Paul resisted this and opposed it whenever it was threatened. Burk Parsons writes:

To be a steward we must be faithful, and such faithfulness begins with the regular reminder to ourselves first and then to the household of God that we are not lords, but stewards, entrusted by God with His Gospel, not ours—and if it’s His, we ought not trifle with it knowing well that if we do we will not simply be found bad stewards but not stewards at all, deserving not only discharge from our office but a mill-stone around our necks.[footnote]Burk Parsons, “Not Lords, Stewards”, Ligonier.org, accessed 5.28.14, http://www.ligonier.org/blog/not-lords-stewards/[/footnote]

John Calvin writes:

Now the medium observed by Paul consists in this, that he calls them stewards of Christ; by which he intimates, that they ought to apply themselves not to their own work but to that of the Lord, who has hired them as his servants, and that they are not appointed to bear rule in an authoritative manner in the Church, but are subject to Christ’s authority—in short, that they are servants, not masters.

B. A steward is a manager of a household
We are responsible to steward, administer, or manage God’s household which includes His buildings, His money, His truth, His time, His opportunities/openings, and His children.
C. A steward must be faithful
He has been entrusted with a huge responsibility, which is a great privilege but also a tough job. He must be honest and scrupulous with the master’s property and possessions (Titus 1:7).
D. A steward must give an account
The steward must be faithful, especially in the master’s absence because one day the master is coming home to call to account. He therefore works with an eternal perspective.
E. A faithful steward will be rewarded (Matt. 25:14-30)
Sometimes in this world. Definitely in the next.


III. Honest Stewardship of Money

Almost everything that we buy today comes with a warning on it, whether it is something electronic or mechanical or even a child’s toy. Obviously there are things that are clearly dangerous that carry warnings as well (e.g. cigarettes and alcohol carry government health warnings). But there is one thing in this world, probably about the most dangerous thing in the world, that does not carry any warning. It is the dollar, or whatever currency we use: money.
Paul said that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). It’s not a coincidence that he said this in a pastoral letter to the young pastor, Timothy. Pastors and other Christian leaders are also subject to this great temptation. In fact, as we shall see, they may be more susceptible to it in some ways. And if they fall into this temptation, they usually damage not just themselves, but their witness, their ministries, and perhaps even others as well.

A. The roots, fruits, and weedkiller of evil

Question: Why is money so dangerous and how do I defend myself?
First of all, I’d like to look at the root of all evil, then the fruit of all evil, and then the weed killer of all evil.
1. The root of all evil
When Paul says that the love of money is “the root of all evil” he does not mean that every single sin in the whole world can be traced to the love of money. No, “all” can mean all kinds of evil, multiple evils, or numerous evils.
Notice also that it does not say that money is the root of all evil; it is the love of money. Just having money is not evil. Even having lots of money is not evil. Notice verse 17 in this chapter where Paul says to Timothy, “Command those who are rich in this present age” that they get rid of all their riches? No, it does not say that. It says, “not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” Then he goes on to speak about the right attitude that even a rich person can have with lots of money. In other words Paul is saying that you can be extremely wealthy and not sin regarding money. You can be very poor and sin much more regarding money than a rich person. A poor person may have far greater love of money than a rich person.
It is not just being rich that Paul says is evil, and neither is it even the desire to have money that is evil. If that was so, then who could live in this world? Who could function? Because there is a natural desire, a God-given desire to earn money, to fund provisions for ourselves, our families, and the Church of Christ. So again, it is not just the desire for money that is evil. You can desire money without sinning. It is a certain kind of desire, a certain kind of longing, and a certain kind of love for money that Paul says is the root of all kinds of evil.
It is a loving of money above everything else. It is a loving of money that puts money number one in our priorities. It is a loving of money that will make us pursue it at all costs. It is a kind of loving of money that will make us try to get it by fair means or foul, by good means or bad. It is a love of money that dominates and overwhelms. It is a love of money that makes it the major factor in all our decisions. It is that kind of love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil.
2. The fruits of all evil
What kinds of fruits are produced by this root? There are so many they cannot be counted. But maybe we can start with biblical examples of this rotten fruit:

  • Gehazi who tried to make money from Elisha’s healing of a leper and suffered leprosy as a result.
  • Judas who was a greedy thief, and betrayed his Lord for money.
  • Ananias and Saphira were killed for lying about their alleged givings to the church.
  • Demas forsook the Apostle Paul because he loved this present world (2 Tim. 4:10).

What kinds of fruit should we be looking for in our lives to examine ourselves, to see “Do I have this evil root?”

  • Do I envy other people’s lives and covet their possessions?
  • Do I steal through my expenses or tax returns?
  • Am building up debt by impatience and overspending?
  • Am I taking on commitments just for the monetary reward?
  • Do I trim my sermons in case they offend rich donors?
  • Is my church more of a marketing operation than a ministry?
  • Am I gambling or playing the lottery?
  • Am I making risky investment decisions?
  • Am I acquiring a reputation for driving too hard a bargain?
  • Do I try to get something for nothing?
  • Do I cut back on my givings to the Lord when things get tight?

Notice the warning that Paul says should be written on every note of currency:
“I am a great temptress”
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation…” (1 Tim. 6:9). Some temptations come so obviously; but financial ones come so stealthily, so beautifully dressed, so innocently, so excusably. If only we could see behind them: I am a temptress, I am a seductress.
“I trap”
“Those who desire to be rich fall into…a snare” (v. 9). If we knew that we were about to walk through a forest in which hunters had set traps and snares everywhere, how carefully, how slowly, how gently, how gingerly we would go. Paul warns that the love of money puts traps everywhere; traps that can grab us, damage us, and injure us. Yet how thoughtlessly and carelessly we walk!
“I fool”
He says it leads into many “foolish lusts” (v. 9). “Foolish” here means irrational and illogical. He is saying, “If only people could see how irrational and illogical this love for money is. It looks reasonable, it looks logical, it looks normal. But, no! It’s irrational; it’s illogical if only you could see what it is doing to you.
“I injure”
Paul does not only speak of foolish lusts but also “harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (v. 9). He says, “You think that this money is raising you up, promoting you, and making you big and high. No! If only you can see it’s drowning you, it’s taking you down, it’s suffocating you, it’s sucking the oxygen out of your life and you are slowly dying.”
“I can make you an unbeliever”
Paul mourns that because of the love of money, some have “strayed from the faith in their greediness” (v. 10). The dollar has turned more people into unbelievers than any false religion.
“I impale”
Due to the love of money some have “pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (v. 10). It’s a picture of someone crucifying themselves. Every ill-gotten dollar, though it is thought to bring comfort, pleasure, and happiness, is actually turned into a sharp and painful knife. Talk about self-harm!
Imagine if the dollar said all these things before we wanted it, before we got it, and as we thought about how were going to spend it. It would cry out, “I tempt, I trap, I fool, I injure, I drown, I create unbelievers, and I impale.” That would make a difference in our desire for it, what we do when we are given it by God, and how we use it.
3. The weed killer of all evil
How can we be delivered from this love of money? You are saying, “It has become the root in my life, and these are the fruits in my life. Is there a weed killer? Is there a way to round up these weeds and these roots and to kill them? Or am I just left to my own efforts trying to kill these weeds in my own strength?”
Well, thankfully not! In 1 Timothy 6 Paul not only issues warnings, but also provides us with two weedkillers – one that is more passive (contentment) and the other much more active (godliness). When you put them together you get a blessed formula: godliness + contentment = great wealth (v. 6).
a. The passive weedkiller: contentment (1 Tim. 6:7-8)
There is nothing wrong with praying for an outward sufficiency. Consider the beautifully balanced prayer of Proverbs 30v8:  “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient (or, sufficient) for me” (KJV). Yes, he desires and prays for money, but it is only that he might have sufficient for his family and for doing good in this world.
But, in 1 Timothy, Paul is especially advocating an inner sufficiency, an inner contentment, regardless of our finances. Paul is combating materialistic preachers who taught “gain is godliness” (KJV v. 5).  This “health, wealth and prosperity gospel” is still with us today, isn’t it?

  • If we have much, then God is pleased with us
  • Therefore, let’s have a lot because it shows God’s favor towards us
  • Gain equals godliness

Paul says, “NO! You’ve got this upside down. Godliness equals gain.” And to build contentment, he urges us to meditate especially on our departure from this world: “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” I think it was John Piper who said, “There are no U-Haul trailers behind hearses.” We come in to this world empty and we leave this world empty.
b. The active weedkiller: godliness (1 Tim. 6:11-12)
Paul follows his warnings about the love of money (vv. 9-10) with a call to the active pursuit of godliness. Yes, passive contentment kills the leaves and the stems of covetousness, but it’s vigorous godliness that reaches the roots: “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (vv. 11-12). “Flee…pursue… fight…lay hold…” What active and aggressive imperatives. If we are energetically and enthusiastically engaged in building Christ’s kingdom, the weeds of covetousness will not find friendly soil in our hearts.
And just as contentment develops in the light of eternity, so also does godliness (vv. 13-16). The weeds of money-love wither and die in the blinding light of a living awareness of Christ’s second coming.
B. Personal, professional, and congregational stewardship
Question: What practical advice would you give to help me be a better steward of money?
Having laid that heart foundation for financial stewardship, let us now look at how this works itself out in our lives; in our personal, professional and congregational stewardship. Pastors are not good at preaching about money, and often they are not good at handling money. In contrast to some of the excesses of the prosperity Gospel movement, some pastors have gone to the other extreme and have portrayed their lack of concern or care about their own personal finances as a mark of godliness.
The Christian life in general, and the Christian leader’s life in particular, is repeatedly portrayed as a stewardship. The New Bible Dictionary says that the Bible translates two words as steward:

epitropos (Mt. 20:8; Gal. 4:2): one to whose care or honor one has been entrusted, a curator, a guardian

oikonomos (Lk. 16:2–3; 1 Cor. 4:1–2; Tit. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10): a manager, a superintendent-from oikos (‘house’) and nemō (‘to dispense’ or ‘to manage’).

Both words convey the idea of a delegated responsibility to manage God’s house. The Christian was to see all property as a trust to be administered for God’s glory and the good of others.
In Titus 1:7, Paul calls all Christian leaders to “be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.” Unsurprisingly, Paul connects blameless stewardship with, among other things, not being greedy of money, something he underlines again, twice, in 1 Tim. 3:3. Peter also connects stewardship with wise and generous hospitality (1 Pet. 4:9-10). In other places, Paul uses “stewardship” to describe his entire apostolic responsibility (1 Cor. 4:1-2).
So, whether it is doctrine or dollars, the Christian is to view himself not as an owner, but as a steward of a household who is managing it for the Owner, to whom he must also eventually give an account.
There are three main areas of financial stewardship that the leader must be blameless in. The first is in personal finance, the second is professional finance, and the third is in church finance.
Personal Finance
1. Study (Prov. 24:3,4)
If someone gave you $2M today, you would probably do two things. First, you would buy a book on money management. Second, you would call a trusted financial adviser. Well, the average American family will earn $2M in an average working life. Yet few study how to manage their money, and few take advice on it.
No one is born a George Soros. Neither was George Soros born a “George Soros!” He had to learn by studying and seeking advice, as do we.
A pastor should not be a financial expert, up-to-date with the latest in the stock market. However, a basic level of financial competence should be the aim. And that can be achieved by regular reading, and by getting good financial advice (Prov. 15:22).
I recommend regular listening to Dave Ramsey, reading his book Total Money Makeover, or working through his course, Financial Peace University.
2. Budget (Prov. 24:3,4; Luke 14:28)
If you aim at nothing, you will almost always hit it! And that describes most people’s financial strategies, from month to month and from year to year. In contrast, the 3% of people who have written financial goals achieve more financially than the other 97% combined.
Financial strategy begins with a monthly budget:

  • Add up all income and give every item a name
  • List fixed expenses (tithe, rent, mortgage, car insurance, etc)
  • Allocate monthly amounts for annual outlays (car tax, snow-plough, condo fees, etc)
  • Estimate variable expenses (utilities, groceries, eating out, clothes, medical expenses)
  • Set aside monthly amount for miscellaneous purchases (birthday presents, books, coffees, etc)
  • Ensure that income exceeds expenditure
  • Track rigorously to find leakage (every day)
  • Pay bills on time

3. Save (Prov. 21:10; 22:3; Matt. 25: 14-30)
Most pastors and most of those in other forms of Christian ministry are not going to be able to save much money from their limited salaries. However, they should have five priorities in descending order of importance:

  • Start with short-term savings for emergencies (e.g. car repairs, doctors visits, etc).
  • Once you have enough in that account (minimum of $3000), move on to medium–term savings for major household purchases (e.g. washing machine, furniture, computer).
  • Put aside a reasonable amount each month towards an annual family vacation (5-10%)
  • Save towards a used car of increasing quality so that you never need to finance a car
  • If there is anything left over then that should go towards long-term savings for retirement, college tuition, etc.

4. Give (Prov. 3:9,10; Luke 6:38; 1 Cor. 16:2)
Just because you work full-time for the Lord’s cause and probably receive less monthly income than many others in your congregation, does not excuse you from giving generously to the Lord’s cause. Giving is meant to be confidential, but details often leak out, especially if the pastor is not giving anything near a tenth of his income, yet is preaching tithing.
The other trap that pastors can fall into is giving more than is appropriate to prove their self-denial and self-sacrifice (or to improve the financial position of their congregation). In these situations it is often the pastor that lets the details leak out!
5. Insure (Prov. 22:3)
Some insurances are mandatory; others are wise. The number one cause of bankruptcy in America is uninsured medical bills. Medical insurance is of course getting increasingly expensive, but even some minimal health insurance will prevent you having to fall back on the generosity of other Christians who have foreseen the evil, taken responsibility, and covered themselves.
6. Wait (Heb. 13:5; 1 Tim. 6:6)
In a world of “easy” credit, “interest-free” credit, and “free” overdrafts, it is very tempting to buy now and pay later. However, the statistics of such lifestyles are frightening. People spend 47% more when using credit cards than when using cash. 88% of “Ninety days interest-free credit offers” are turned into high interest loans. Almost all “free” overdrafts exceed free limits and start accruing interest.
Patient contentment is so vital. Patiently wait until there is enough money to make the purchase, and be content while waiting. If you are paid less than the average you must be careful that you don’t get bitter when you see other families taking vacations, buying new cars, and clothing their kids in the latest fashions. That root of bitterness can spring up and cause a lot of trouble and pain (Heb. 12:15).

  • Bitterness about personal shortage compared to others can sometimes spill into their family life, infecting the children with resentment against others.
  • Sometimes that bitterness or frustration will spill over into more public arenas in personal conversation. This rarely works out well as some people will gladly and speedily portray the you as greedy and worldly.
  • You may be tempted to leave your area of Christian ministry and service purely for financial reasons. Finance may sometimes come into a decision to leave, but it should never be the determining or even major factor.
  • Sometimes a man may cultivate special friendships with the richer members of his congregation in order to benefit from their generosity. It is very rarely a wise move to become obligated to or dependent upon richer members. It will also be noticed by the less wealthy, especially if it begins to affect your judgment.
  • It is increasingly common today for a wife to take on work to supplement her husband’s income. There is a delicate balance to find here. One question to ask is, “Is my wife working to help us live or to help us live well?”

In the midst of these temptations, we must cultivate patient contentment (see above). Consider past ministers and even Christians in past generations and the far less money they had; consider present missionaries and the sacrifices they are making; consider the persecuted church and their present sufferings. Above all, meditate on the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
7. Modesty
If the Lord blesses you with a better than average income or wealth, it can be very tempting to start living up to that level of income. However, this can start breeding resentment in the less well-off (and maybe even some of the very wealthy!). Maybe you can justify your spending decisions to yourself, but you don’t usually get the chance to do that with everyone else.
8. Unite (Eph. 5:22-31)
“One flesh” means “one set of finances.” As Dave Ramsey says, “If you are not working together it’s not going to work.” Even if you maintain separate accounts, they should be combined in the daily review. When you are going to marry someone, you should be sure that the woman is prepared to live within the means of a modest salary.
9. Repay (Prov. 6:5; 22:7)
On rare occasions, it may be necessary to take on a loan. However, it should be repaid as fast as possible, “like a gazelle escaping a hunter.”
10. Audit (2 Cor.5:10)
You can have great plans, but unless you regularly review, you will never know whether you are sticking to the plan or where the plans need to be adjusted. Husbands and wives should regularly sit down with each other and hold one another to account.
And of course, all of this is in the light of the final audit, when every steward will give an account to his or her Lord for how they have managed His property for His glory.
And that brings me to the necessity of preparing for our death. You should have an easily accessible file of information for what to do in the event of your death. Crown Ministries have a helpful list of documents to have ready for your wife and family here.
I’m going to spend far less time on professional and congregational finance, because I believe if we get things right on a personal level, so much else will fall into place.

Professional Finance

In addition to personal accounts, you may also have expenses and costs associated with ministry (e.g. office supplies, gas, etc). In some cases, the congregation may repay some of these expenses. Others may be allowable deductions with the IRS. Whether it is for the congregation or for the IRS, you should aim to keep up-to-date records of all professional expenditure (and income from other sources), including receipts and deposit slips. Stewardship Services Foundation[footnote]Stewardship Services Foundation, http://ssfoundation.net/[/footnote] also has lots of helpful information for pastors about the IRS and Financial management for pastors. The director, James Rickard gave an address on how pastors can avoid the potential bondage of personal finance at the 2003 Shepherds Conference. Here’s an outline of his talk.[footnote]James Rickard, “Avoiding The Potential Bondage of Personal Finance, accessed 5.28.14, http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/SC03-1056CDNotes.htm[/footnote] You should also keep all your records for at least three years, in case of IRS audit.
I would recommend an accountant to audit your records. Even if you only do this from time to time, you can learn a lot from these audits about how to keep your own records better. I advise against having someone in your congregation do this for you.
The main thing is to keep up-to-date with your tax and expenses accounts. Leaving it to mount up will result in mistakes.

Church Finance

The third area where honest stewardship must be practiced is in the area of congregational finance. Jay Adams said: “I see no biblical warrant for the pastor to busy himself with the details of church finance.”
I agree that this is the ideal (Acts 6:1-4). However it rarely works out that way! Especially in smaller congregations, the pastor and elders may have to be involved in keeping the accounts or at least have a role in it.

According to global missions researcher David B. Barrett, an estimated $16 billion was embezzled by the world’s Christian churches in the year 2000, with an estimated $75 billion embezzled between 1980 and 2000. Barrett recommends that “Christians need to tighten up the scrutinizing of all funds holding their monies and to insist on all the accepted safeguards and controls and on all the strictest procedures.” [footnote]David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trend (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2001). Quoted by Randy Alcorn in “Financial Integrity and Accountability in Churches and Ministries,” http://www.epm.org/, accessed 5.20.14, http://www.epm.org/resources/2007/Dec/4/financial-integrity-and-accountability-churches/ [/footnote]

Many of the 10 principles for personal finance can be applied on the congregational level as well. Even if the pastor and elders are not involved in the expenditure decisions or account-keeping, they should still be teaching those who are about the biblical principles of financial stewardship: budgeting, setting priorities, record-keeping, transparency, regular and honest communication with givers, etc.
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) upholds “Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship,” and also calls for every member organization to observe “Twelve standards for fund-raising.” [footnote]Evangelical Council for Financial Accountabilityhttp://www.ecfa.org/ accessed 5.20.14, http://www.ecfa.org/Content/Standards[/footnote] The ECFA is mainly focused on large ministries and churches, but its principles apply to smaller-scale operations as well.
And here are a few extra guidelines for the relationship between pastors and their congregation finances.

1. Avoid fundraising

Avoid becoming the chief fundraiser. If the pastor is always making appeals for money, it looks too much like the pastor just wants more money himself. Much better to get a deacon or an elder to speak about the financial needs of a congregation.

2. Do not handle money gifts

Avoid handling cash gifts to the congregation, especially large cash gifts. Ask people to send the money to a treasurer. Or ask them if someone else can come round and collect it. If it is practically impossible to arrange any of this, make sure that you get an independent person to count the money and give a receipt directly to the donor.

3. Do not co-sign for a loan or put your name on church title deeds

This can cause nightmares if conflict ever threatens to divide your church.

4. Do not use church checking accounts or credit cards for personal purchases

Even if you intend to pay it back immediately, it confuses accounting procedures, and opens the door for accusation.

5. Be extremely careful about becoming personally obliged to donors

There may be people in your congregation who wish to bless you and your family with personal gifts. I’m not saying that you should never accept, but bear in mind that receiving such gifts can influence your judgment and result in favoritism. You have to be a wise judge of character (Is this the kind of person that will “call in a favor” down the line?). And you have to be sure that you have the moral character to treat this person no different from anyone else in the congregation (Will accepting this gift make me hesitant to discipline this person, should the need ever arise?).

6. Set up an annual financial review for all church salaries

It should not be left to the pastor to ask for an increase (or decrease?) of salary. Early in a pastorate (or even before arriving), the pastor should set in place an annual review of all church salaries, honoraria, expense limits, etc. There should be an agreed formula for annual raises along the lines of the rate of inflation, or a percentage of the local average salary, plus a small increment for each year of service. And while the pastor may contribute a report to the elders/deacons/board about his finances, he should absent himself from the discussion and the decision about his salary.

IV. Conclusion

In conclusion, consider how in Matthew 25:21 the Lord rewarded His servants that were faithful with money (the “few things”) with greater spiritual opportunity and responsibility (the “many things”).

If pastors (or any Christian leader) prove their honesty and integrity in temporal things—things that do not last, such as money—God then can trust them with the more important things, such as the spiritual well-being of people. However, if ministers prove to be lacking in financial integrity, it is unlikely that they will have a consistent or spiritually auspicious ministry. If God cannot trust them with the lesser things of money, how can He trust them with the greater things of spiritually influencing the direction of people’s eternal lives?[footnote][1] “Financial Integrity in Ministry” by Crown Financial Ministries, http://beritacalvary.blogspot.com/, accessed 5.20.14. http://beritacalvary.blogspot.com/2008/11/financial-integrity-in-ministry-by.html[/footnote]