By Ken Neevel
The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are within one hundred miles of each other, both fed by the Jordan River. But while the Sea of Galilee is lush, full of fish, and life-giving, the Dead Sea is just that—lifeless. The difference? One receives the Jordan and releases it. The other receives the Jordan, but holds it. It keeps what it gets, and it dies.
This is a beautiful metaphor for what it means to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. The world tells us to keep what we have. But throughout Scripture we are invited, encouraged, and commanded to give our time, talent, and treasure to the work of the Lord.
Did you know the Bible offers 500 verses about prayer—more than the number that are about faith—and more than two thousand verses about money and possessions? Out of Jesus’s 38 parables, 16 deal with stewardship and the handling of money and possessions. In the Gospels, one in ten verses (288) focus directly on money.
Why is this so prevalent in Scripture? Because it’s really about our relationship with God. Clearly, the way we steward our resources is a marker of our spiritual health. It isn’t possible to be disciples of Jesus without giving joyfully and generously from the resources that God has entrusted to us.
Of all those passages about financial stewardship, my favorite is Malachi 3:8-10:
Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings! You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me—the whole nation of you! Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
This is the only place in Scripture where God says, “Test me,” so it must be important. But it’s what comes after the test that gets me: “…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” God doesn’t need anything from us, however God wants our heart.
As transformed people, we need to give for God. How we give our time, talent, and treasure is a spiritual litmus test. Are you the Dead Sea or the Sea of Galilee?
Ken Neevel is director of development for the Reformed Church in America. More Than Enough reflects on issues of faith and stewardship.