One of the many tests that the Lord allows leaders in His church to experience is the test of finances. As leaders, we pray and ask the Lord for provision to carry out the work of the ministry. When the answer comes, it is both a blessing and a test. It is a blessing when the Lord, out of his benevolence, entrusts material riches to accomplish His purposes on the earth. Similarly, it is a test to the leader who might be familiar with the small gifts, but unskilled with the large contributions which fall into their lap as they are taking steps to achieve the great things that God has put into their heart.
On such occasions, we, as ministry leaders, are confronted with the question of what to do when money is laid at our feet. Thankfully, we find the Apostles considering this same question in the book of Acts at the formation of the early church. From Acts chapter 4:32-4:37 we can note how these godly leaders handled finances and determined what to do with other Christians freely given resources.
- Trickle-Down Giving Grows the Church (Acts 4:32-34). The definition of trickle-down economic theory states that benefits for the wealthy pass down to the poor therefore improving society as a whole. In the New Testament church, they practiced ‘Trickle-Down Giving’. Those who had more strategically liquidated assets in order to help the least. Therefore, the ‘big gift’ was common in the NT church. Nowadays, many churches claim they want to be like the NT church in all matters; all matters that is unless it relates to managing generous giving. In Acts chapter 4:34 we see that trickle-down giving grows the church because the gifts went to those in need within the body of Christ. (It did not go to buildings, projects, etc. but that is another blog for another day.)
- Steward Resources to People First and Projects Second (Acts 4:34-35). Why did the New Testament church community experience rapid growth? There are many factors that play into the answer to that question – such as God’s grace, persecution, and the power of the Holy Spirit. But, I tend to think a main contributing factor to the growth of the early church as unconditional love expressed in uncontainable generosity. The needs of the early church came before missions, building projects, and anything else. People are more important than projects. Surely, those outside the community of faith must have noticed the generosity of the NT church and its commitment to share, give, and provide for those who could not do so for themselves. Yes, projects are important, but ministry resources should be stewarded to people first.
- Steward Resources to People According to Need (Acts 4:35). A very difficult thing in life is trying to accurately assess and gauge someone’s need against someone else’s need. In situations like this, God gives the Christian leader wisdom. As much as we want to provide everything to all who have need, we simply can’t. This is because God is limitless but his provision is limited. Why is it limited? So we can learn to trust Him and walk by faith knowing that he will provide for our needs to do what he has called us to do. As leaders we learn to disburse God’s provision to other Christians until it is gone. Then God, out of his limitless nature, supplies more.
- Generous Giving is Remembered by God (Acts 4:36-37). Great givers are remembered. They are remembered by unsaved people, the community of faith, and God. The end of chapter 4 shows a beautiful example of a giver. Here, the writer of introduces us to Joseph of Cyprus. The apostles gave the name ‘son of encouragement’ or ‘Barnabus’, to this man who sold a field and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet. To all the ones who exhibit such uncontainable generosity, know that you are remembered. Your gift, just like Barnabus’s gift, is remembered by others on the earth and by God in heaven. As a leader, when money is laid at your feet by a ‘Barnabus’, you remember that person before God and thank them with sincerity for their heart, their generosity, and their timely encouragement to the body of Christ.