Though speaking about stewardship and finances is a very distasteful thing in our contemporary American culture, the faithful pastor will crucify his desire for human approval and seek to shepherd the flock that God has entrusted to him in these areas. This really is an absolute necessity. Scripture does not shrink back from addressing stewardship and giving. And, if the pastor wants to preach the whole counsel of God, he must not shrink back either. With that said, there are certain principles that a pastor must keep in mind when preaching on stewardship and giving. Principles directing the preaching of a stewardship sermon are as follows: 1) Christ compelling truths 2) Heavenly realities 3) Encouraging the faithful 4) Warning the unfaithful 5) Comforting the needy 6) Exhorting the rich.
Christ Compelling Truths
So, to begin, we will look at the importance of stewardship sermons being saturated with Christ compelling truths. Anytime a pastor is seeking to compel a congregation to put off greed, the love of money, and the love of possessions in order to put on faithful stewardship and generosity, they need to do so with Christ compelling truths. This is what Paul does in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Paul, in seeking to stir up the Christians in Corinth to give desirously, readily, and cheerfully, said, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Then, at the end of Paul’s section of giving generously, he says, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift” (2 Cor. 9:15). As can be seen, Paul is centering his message on giving with compelling truths regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The second principle regarding preaching stewardship sermons is the importance of keening in on heavenly realities. This is seen throughout the Bible. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples regarding money and possessions, he told them not to lay up treasure on earth because of the temporal nature of it, but rather to lay up treasure in heaven that will never perish (Mt. 6:19-21). He also shows them the incredible lure that money places on the heart when he says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Mt. 6:24-25). So, as you can see, Christ is keening in on invisible heavenly realities (eternal rewards and the danger of loving money) as he addresses these topics.
He does this again with the parable of the rich fool. In it, a rich man accumulated more and more crops and then built bigger and bigger barns so that he could live in comfort and ease throughout his earthly life. In the parable, God says to the rich man, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be” (Lk. 12:20)? Thus, this rich man is a fool. He has stored up for comfort and ease in his earthly life but has neglected eternal life. Therefore, regarding eternal things, he has only stored up wrath for himself. So, as you can see, in speaking about wealth, money, comfort, ease, etc., Jesus is consistently lifting his hearer’s eyes to invisible heavenly realities. A good pastor will seek to do the same in his stewardship sermons.
Encouraging the Faithful
The third principle regarding the preaching of stewardship sermons is the necessity to encourage the faithful. A pastor must not assume that everybody within the congregation is falling into the snare of the love of money. Some people within the congregation are being faithful. They are giving generously to the mission of the local church and to the mission to take the gospel to every nation. They are storing up treasure in heaven. They are seeking to use their wealth to alleviate the suffering of the poor and needy. Therefore, a pastor must seek to encourage them and, as Paul always told the Thessalonians, to continue to do so more and more.
Warning the Unfaithful
The fourth principle regarding the preaching of stewardship sermons is the importance of warning the unfaithful. Just as a pastor must not assume that everybody within the congregation is falling into the snare of the love of money, he also must not assume that everybody within the congregation is free from the snare of the love of money. The Scripture makes it blatantly clear that the love of money is a very real danger for those who profess Christ. Paul informs Timothy of this when he says, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The danger of riches and the love of money is very clear here. And, directly after this, Paul writes to Timothy saying, “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things” (1 Timothy 6:11).
Also, Jesus, within the parable of the sower, really conveys the same thought. Regarding the seed sown amongst thorns, Jesus says, “And the others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19). There are other passages of Scripture that address this, but this is enough to show the pastor that he must warn the unfaithful. There is a real danger that professed believers will fall in love with money, fall into temptation, be plunged into ruin and destruction, and then wander away from the faith. The paradigm example of this is Judas!
Comforting the Needy
The fifth principle regarding the preaching of a stewardship sermon is the importance of comforting the needy. The pastor must keep in mind that there are those in the congregation that are needy. They simply to not have much to give. Rather, they spend a bulk of their life with very little and, at times, rely on the generosity of others to make ends meet. These Christians must be comforted during stewardship sermons. So, the pastor must inform them that God looks at the heart of the individual, not the external quantity of money they give. That which is great in the eyes of God is a heart that gives in faith, not the zeros behind a number. Take the widow in the gospel of Mark for example. Many rich people are placing very large sums of money into the offering box, but then this poor widow comes and places in two copper coins. Jesus, upon seeing this, says to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44). So, in the eyes of God this widow gave more than all the rich people that were placing large sums of money into the offering box. This is how God judges our stewardship. Therefore, the pastor ought to comfort the needy in his congregation with this type of understanding.
Exhorting the Rich
The sixth principle of preaching a stewardship sermon is the necessity of exhorting the rich. Though not everybody in the congregation is rich, there does happen to be some rich people in most congregations. The faithful pastor will exhort the rich believers within the congregation to leverage their riches to the glory and honor of God. The faithful pastor, with Paul, will always be telling the rich, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:17-19). A faithful pastor will exhort the rich in his congregation in a similar way.
So, these are six principles for preaching stewardship sermons. The pastor needs to saturate his stewardship sermons with Christ compelling truths, heavenly realities, encouragement to the faithful, warnings to the unfaithful, comfort to the needy, and exhortations to the rich. Maintaining these six principles will help the pastor to preach a God glorifying, Christ exalting, and biblically centered sermon that will hopefully lead to Spirit empowered obedience in the people of God.