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For nearly a century, Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship assisted, inspired and trained congregations in important ways. LLM ceased operations on May 31, 2003, but the Stewardship of Life Institute is proud to continue its work by making its web resources available to a new generation of stewards.

Money: Do Our Attitudes and Practices Reflect Our Faith?
By Duane Engelhardt

-Psalm 12:1

Stewardship is a faith issue, not a money issue. I need to daily remind myself that everything I have, yes even life itself, is a gift from God. I do this by offering a prayer of thanksgiving at the beginning of every day for this new day and for the many blessings that continue to be bestowed by God. We are tempted by the sin within us and the multitude of events around us to want to put our faith in man. Money especially has this power.

As Dr. H. George Anderson offers in the ELCA Bible study "Daring to Trust in God," one can ascribe many of the same attributes to money that are ascribed to God. We have one calling, that is to be faithful to the one true God. We need to be alert that we are placing our faith and trust in God and have the right perspective about the rest of our lives

I would like to explore two questions relative to money:
1.) What shapes our attitude about money and possessions?
2.) What shapes our practices about money and possessions?

The verse from the psalmist is as contemporary today as it was then. Pressures from without, such as the following, tend to cause us to lose sight of God's omnipotence:

blue.gif (76 bytes) "Money is the root of all evil."
blue.gif (76 bytes) "Money is the instrument of the devil."
blue.gif (76 bytes) "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
blue.gif (76 bytes) "Money has nothing to do with our faith."
blue.gif (76 bytes) "Money is secular."
blue.gif (76 bytes) "Don't talk about money in church."
blue.gif (76 bytes) "Pastor, you can talk about anything but please don't talk about money."

All of these familiar clichés shape our attitude and cause us to put money into the "evil" category. The last two are especially discomforting because they stifle the discussion that we need so very much. Frankly, the secular forces are getting significantly greater "press" than is provided within the church. The church has, over the years, provided significant opportunities for discussion. The audience has not been overwhelming.

One of the outstanding stewardship leaders in the church, the late Dr. Calvin Gilck, offered this: "Money, in the sense that it is earned, is minted self. It is merely a convenient and accepted way by which I exchange my God-given time, talents and opportunity for the 'stuff' of life."

This definition then, acknowledges that everything is a gift from God and brings us into harmony with the psalmist.

Our attitude about our money and possessions must be shaped by our faith. It needs to be nurtured through prayer and daily renewal.

As an insurance representative, I meet with families with a variety of incomes, lifestyles, ages, etc. One observation is that the shortage or excess of money is generally not related to income. It is related to priorities, attitudes, planning and such. Several years ago I heard a stewardship leader suggest that the solution to month-end-money-woes was to begin tithing. How can this be?

The piece that was missing was the knowledge that most households without purpose and without priorities "lose" approximately 20  percent of their income through the proverbial cracks. When we begin tithing we begin to set priorities. This stops the "leakage" resulting in 10 percent being given away and 10 percent "found." As Dr. Anderson states in the study, "Joy and an adequate supply of money for necessities are unexpected benefits of tithing."

Christian giving ought always to represent a planned response to God.

Stewardship starts with perceiving our relationship with God and bears testimony through action. Our practices then must begin with being "on purpose," God's purpose

Does one's responsibility end with tithing? No, we are to be good stewards of all with which we have been entrusted.

Following are some areas where we can become better stewards of the money we are using.

A Good Steward:

blue.gif (76 bytes) Sets priorities
blue.gif (76 bytes) Identifies some long and short range objectives. Most crises occur because no plan existed, not because of a bad plan.
blue.gif (76 bytes) Has a will and estate plan.
blue.gif (76 bytes) Has appropriate insurance.
blue.gif (76 bytes) Keeps detailed financial records. Gets professional advice on money management.
blue.gif (76 bytes) Follows a balanced financial plan.

What shapes our practices about money and possessions?

"He is truly rich who desires nothing, and he is truly poor who covets all." --SOLON

"Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master." -- P.T. BARNUM

"What I spent is gone; What I kept is lost; but what I gave away will be mine forever." -- DR. ETHEL PERCY ANDRUS

Duane Engelhardt of Springfield, N.J., is a past president of Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship. This essay appeared in the Summer 1998 issue of Faith in Action.