Money sermons can be awkward for everyone involved, from the pastor behind the pulpit to the people in the pews. Even if you’ve given (or heard) a biblically sound money sermon that earned you handshakes and hugs after church, you’ve probably also sat through (or given –we’re sorry) one that was cringe-worthy.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. Not only should all pastors preach on money, but they should do it with confidence that they’re communicating God’s Word. That’s because the Bible has a lot to say about money. According to financial expert Howard Dayton, the Bible references money and possessions more than 2,350 times. That must mean God thinks it’s pretty important.
Still, given the unfortunate stigma around money in some churches, many churchgoers are understandably uncomfortable bringing it up with their pastor. We asked Dave’s Financial Peace University Facebook fans what they’d want to ask their pastor about money, tithing or stewardship if they had the opportunity. Here are three big issues they mentioned that we think every pastor should address:
Tithing on the Gross or the Net
Whether to tithe on gross or net income is one of the most common questions Dave hears when it comes to tithing, and Rebecca A. recently asked it again on Facebook.
So here’s our not-so-black-and-white answer: Any form of the tithe, whether from your gross or net income, is better than the 3% national average among Christians giving to their churches. (By the way, a tithe is exactly 10%; anything above that should be considered an offering). Dave himself tithes on gross, but no one is going to beat you up if you opt for the net. Tithing isn’t a salvation issue, and God will love you either way.
The Church as an Example
How many churches have taught one thing and done another when it comes to handling money? Are you shuddering? Us too. This comes across as an integrity breakdown (because it is), and it mars the church’s reputation. More than that, it hurts all churches when any body of believers opens the door to the hypocrite label.
Caleb H. had a question around that exact issue: “Some churches are quick to [take a bold stand] as it relates to hot-button issues, then they turn around and take out an interest-only adjustable rate mortgage for a building project. I'd like to address that,” he said.
Here’s the deal: If you teach people that the Bible has nothing good to say about debt and that they should avoid it like the plague, then the church itself probably shouldn’t go deeply into debt. The old saying “Practice what you preach” was never more true.
Lots of churches disclose their budgets to their members on a regular basis. Of course, there’s value in having faith in God’s plan for our money. When we release it, we’re trusting God to use it as He sees fit. Remember, He owns it all anyway (Psalm 24:1). But the church’s spending is worth communicating every once in a while because if you don’t, members will be wondering how the money they give is being used.
Viviana D. brought up the topic with her question. She said: “It would be interesting to know how the church uses tithes and offerings. I know we support a lot of ministries and missions, and we have construction underway, so I'm not worried they are misusing the money. I’m just curious what the church budget looks like. Does any of my tithe go to missions, or is that just from special offerings, etc.?”
When you share how your church allocates money, it builds transparency and trust between members and leaders. It also creates a very tangible connection between members’ money and kingdom work. When we know the money we give is going to fund an orphanage in Cambodia, to build a well in Africa, or to feed the homeless in our own town, we might feel better about giving.
Are we saying that the more people know about how their gifts are spent, the more generous they may become? Yes! Everyone likes to know that their money is being spent well.
The next time you’re prepping your sermon on money, tithing and stewardship, keep these questions in mind. Chances are someone in your own church is wondering the same thing. Better yet, ask your members ahead of time what they’d like to know, and answer those questions in your message. Clear communication and honesty grounded in biblical truth are keys to a healthy congregation that understands the true meaning of biblical stewardship: that God owns it all, and we’re just the managers of all of His blessings.