Stewarding the Other 90%

Stewarding the Other 90%

 Rolf Jacobson is associate professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary. The following article is part of the Stewardship Resources weekly e-newsletter from Luther Seminary. You can sign up for these weekly tips and articles here


I remember a stewardship children’s sermon from when I was a kid.

The pastor brought in a whole bunch of produce:

  • Ten apples
  • Ten bananas
  • Ten oranges
  • Ten heads of lettuce
  • Ten peaches
  • Ten sides of beef (not really, just testing you)
  • Ten potatoes
  • Ten cookies

The pastor introduced the concept of tithing with the kids, then went about making two piles—one representing “our share” and one representing “God’s share.”

“What do you think about these two piles?” the pastor asked.

“That one is really big,” said the kids, “but that one is kind of small.”

Then, the pastor gave each kid ten dimes, with no further instruction, and sent them on their merry way.

The congregational tellers had to sort through a lot more dimes than usual on that day.

It’s an effective children’s message—probably more effective than most of the stewardship sermons I have ever heard.

But there is one rather unhelpful “hidden message” in the above children’s message. Hidden in the concept of “God’s share” and “our share” is the misbegotten notion that we are done thinking about stewardship once we have tithed. That we are done thinking about God’s will and God’s ways once we have written our checks to charity.

What if God cares as much about the 90 percent that we do not give to charity as God cares about the 10 percent that we do give?

Maybe God might want to say something like the following to us: “You are not done with me once you give away the first 10 percent. In fact, you are just beginning. I am just as interested in how you spend and use the rest of the good things that I give you.”

How can we invite the people of God to imagine God as involved in the other 90 percent?

The big question for God’s people might be this: How do those who belong to Jesus Christ think about all of the things that belong to them?

Maybe one or more of these questions might spark your imagination:

  • Does God care as deeply about how much we tip as God cares about how much we put in the plate?
  • Does God care as much about how and where we invest our accumulated wealth as how we first acquired that wealth?
  • If you could put a radioactive tracer on every dollar that passes through your checking account and follow those dollars around for a month, how many lives would those dollars touch? What stories would those dollars tell? And which story might tease the broadest smile out of God?
  • Isn’t bacon the most perfect of all breakfast foods? (Again, just seeing if you are still reading.)
  • Does God care about where we spend our money?
  • Does God care about on what we spend our money?
It is fun to think about these questions. It is even more fun to live these questions. To entertain these mysteries.  To wonder with other baptized and forgiven sinners, “Now that I belong to God, how shall I live with all these belongings?”

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