Not For Sale
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The Difference Between Contribution and Distribution
Not everything in your possession is your possession—that is an obvious statement, but is it?. There are things that may look like ours but if we can listen to the Holy Spirit, He will tell us things that are ours and things that are not ours. As we saw in chapter 2, there are things that we have been given for our personal consumption, nevertheless, it is important to remember that our hands are also conduits in the chain of distribution. It is bad stewardship to own everything that comes into our hand.
It is not wise to budget with what is not ours. And the test is when we are hungry ourselves, for example, and then we are given food to pass along to someone else.
A friend once asked me for some financial help but because I was jobless, broke and struggling, I wasn’t in a position to help him. Not long after he made the request—it must have been the same week—out of nowhere, a member of our local church blessed me with some good amount of money. No sooner had I received the money than a voice spoke to me from inside: The money is not yours, pass it on! Without a struggle, I knew whose money it was. I gave it away in its entirety to the friend who had asked for help.
It is important to remember that we can be called upon to share the things that are for our personal consumption. That brings me to explaining the difference between contribution and distribution.
The things we give away as contributions are things that are ours but out of our own volition, we give them away. They are things like offerings we make out of what we could as well use on ourselves. Things for distribution on the other hand, are those things that are not necessarily ours. The reason we get them is to pass them along. We may not even keep some portion for ourselves, unless there is a provision for that.
Good stewardship demands that we understand if something is for distribution as opposed to contribution. If we treat a distribution as a contribution, something is bound to go wrong somewhere. This is because if it is a contribution, we decide how much we give away. If it is distribution, we have no choice but pass everything along according to instructions. If it is distribution, it doesn’t matter that we ourselves are in need of the very thing we are expected to give away. The mentality of contribution can interfere with the faithfulness expected in the distribution of the things that must be passed on to others.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira tells us that it constitutes fraud to give away something as a distribution when it is a contribution. The mood of what was happening was that of distribution but they had a choice to either contribute or distribute. They lied because of the attitude they had in their heart.
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”—Acts 5:1-4.
When God is doing something serious and special, He doesn’t condone people who come to mock and defraud. Such behaviours can be punished instantly and hard.
Good stewardship means that we have to be truthful and faithful. During the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, Nehemiah made Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, Pedaiah the Levites and Hanan treasurers over the treasuries, for they were counted faithful. Their office was to distribute unto their brethren (Nehemiah 13:13).
The Holy Spirit may speak different things to different people depending on what He wants individuals do to. If Ananias and Sapphira were not convicted to give away everything, they didn’t have to lie about it, they were free to keep their land or all the money after they sold it. It could also have been alright for them to say that they sold the land and decided to share part of the proceeds.
Although we can learn good example from people around us, we have to be careful not to do things that we don’t feel inspired to do. A steward must listen to the master for instructions on what to do. When we go forth to present our work, we don’t tell the master that we have been doing what others were doing.
The context of the story above shows that believers had a conviction to distribute their possessions. They did it willingly. Ananias and Sapphira did what they did out of imitation not conviction.
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