To belong to our congregation is to be a steward. Some may say that “stewardship” is just a polite way of referring to financial giving to the church. But it’s far more than that.
One character in some of Jesus’ parables is the steward — the servant charged by the master to care for the master’s property. It is the master, not the steward, who owns the property, but the steward is responsible for it and is accountable to the master. So it is, said Jesus, between God and us. As God’s stewards we have three responsibilities:
- Receiving: We receive with joyful thanksgiving the many gifts that God showers upon us — time, talent, treasure, our bodies, our friendships, natural resources, and the beauty around us.
- Managing: We take good care of what we have received. We manage these resources wisely — for our own good and the good of others.
- Giving: Out of our gratitude in receiving so abundantly, we want to share with others. Let’s look at four kinds of gifts that we receive, manage, and share:
“Celebrating the offering is a spiritual act of worship every believer can actively participate in each week. Giving becomes a celebration when the believer discovers the joy of generosity, which grows out of God’s grace.” — Melvin Amerson, Celebrating the Offering
We did nothing to earn the hours, the days, the weeks of our lives. Time is a gift of God. How we choose to use it is a matter of stewardship. Some people lead lives of frenetic activity, always over-extending themselves to the point of exhaustion, while others sit around in apathetic boredom. Some spend all their hours serving the needs of others at the expense of their own, while others live only for themselves.
As Christian stewards we try to manage time wisely and in a balanced way. And we give our time gladly to family and friends, to strangers, to the community, the church, and to ourselves.
Do you remember Jesus’ parable of the three servants who received different amounts of money to manage while the master was away? We’ve each received from God distinctive gifts and talents. How we develop and use these talents is a matter of stewardship. Like two of the servants in Jesus’ story, we can invest them wisely — or like the third, out of fear we can hide them (Matthew 25:14-30).
As stewards, we acknowledge the gifts we have without apology. We develop them further, practicing new skills and putting our talents to work in ministry.
We may think that our financial resources are our own. But when we recall that the time, the energy, the good health, and the opportunities for employment behind these dollars are all gifts from God, we see that the funds belong to God too. We are the stewards; God is the owner. So questions about what we earn, how we earn it, how we save, spend, and give it away, are all questions of Christian stewardship.
One vital aspect of our stewardship is our giving to Christ’s work in the world. We’ve learned that giving is most effective when we commit ourselves to give a definite proportion of our income through the church. For many, this proportion is one-tenth, or a tithe. Whatever the amount, we have discovered the joy in giving to God the “first fruits,” an amount “off the top” of our income, not what’s left over at the end of the month.