Brief Conversation on Self-Reliance

Dynamic Stewardship: What would be your personal definition of self-reliance?

William Bagambe: I define self-reliance as the ability to do things and make decisions by oneself, without largely depending on others for assistance. In financial matters, it means the capacity to earn a living and to provide for one’s needs.

DS: Besides being a businessperson, you are a pastor. Do you see the concept of self-reliance in the Bible?

WB: Definitely. Credit should be extended to the apostle Paul for championing self-reliance in both word and action during his ministry. In action, Paul was a tentmaker in Corinth (Acts 18:3). He raised funds to support himself and his ministry and impacted many people through his trade.

DS: Was the apostle Paul teaching self-reliance to the early Christians?

WB: He addresses the subject on multiple occasions. An example of these teachings is reported in I Thessalonians 4:11, 12. This passage states: “You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (NIV). According to Paul, working and earning a living and becoming self-reliant is part of the spiritual obligations for all believers. He even considered self-reliance as increasing the witnessing power of believers in the communities where they live.

DS: Is there a relationship between the self-reliance of church members and the self-reliance of the church as an institution?

WB: I strongly believe it is. I’ll answer from the perspective of the early church. According to Bible passages such as Acts 2:44, 45 and Acts 4:32–37 and other texts, believers were assisting to the needs of the vulnerable within the church community. It means that they had built up resources in the form of properties. To give, you must have first, and it must belong to you. That is self-reliance.

Self-reliance can make one a faithful steward and keep the church united, supplying the needs of others. For us to do mission effectively and witness for Christ, we need to grow in self-reliance.

DS: What about the Old Testament?

WB: Self-reliance traces its roots from the Creation week. In Genesis 2:15, God provided for the human family whatever was needed to live and to ensure quality of life. To maintain this condition, humans were to work and take care of creation.

Secondly, you may recall that at least three of the Ten Commandments are directly related to self-reliance. The eighth commandment states that “you shall not steal,” and the tenth commandment forbids coveting “anything that belongs to your neighbor.” These commands are clear instructions for God’s children to work and acquire for themselves.

The clearest order to seek self-reliance comes from the fourth commandment, which establishes rest and hard work as the cycle of life that God has designed for His people.

DS: Is there a risk for Christians to become self-centered through their quest of self-reliance?

WB: The risk exists. Some people, in their quest for self-reliance, have fallen into the trap of “no need of God, I suffice to myself.” However, this is not the biblical perspective of self-reliance. God wants us to attain self-reliance through our dependence on Him. In Deuteronomy 8:18, He clearly mentions that one of the clauses of His covenant with His children is to provide “the ability to produce wealth” (NIV) and that this pathway to self-reliance needs to be perpetually remembered.

William Bagambe

Pastor William Bagambe was the former Stewardship Director of the East Central Africa Division, and he holds an MBA. Currently, he is serving as DVC Finance & Administration/CFO, at Bugema University, Union.