Giving & Stewardship

A on Stewardship

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “stewardship”? Budgets and spreadsheets? Money? Pledge cards? The ‘thing’, that happens each fall to ensure that there is enough money in the budget for the next year?

Stewardship encompasses so much more than money. It is a way of life. It calls for integration between our faith, and the way that we live our lives — we are a church (the church is the people) that is energized by lively engagement in our faith and our life. Stewardship is a mindset, and a discipline. According to Clarence Stoughton, former president of Wittenberg University, stewardship is everything we do after we say “I believe”. It is the way in which we use all of the resources that God has entrusted to our care, so that we can love God and our neighbor. Stewardship is about love.

Take a look at the picture below:

DOWN, IN, AND OUT: LOVING GOD AND LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR

The practice of stewardship invites us to look in three different directions: down, in, and out. We begin by looking at how God has come down to us. We then look in to discover all that God has entrusted to our care. We end by looking out to understand the needs of our neighbors. While these three actions may not always happen in this order, the practice of stewardship always invites all three.

When we practice stewardship in this way, we are making the sign of the cross. God makes the first vertical line DOWN; we follow by moving IN to the center and then OUT to our neighbors on either side both near and far. We form a cross with our lives, and through our faith, we are marked with the cross of Christ forever.

Next time, we’ll look a little more at the Down, the In, and the Out!  

A Second on Stewardship

My last Script entry was the beginning of “Down, In, & Out; Loving God & Loving Our Neighbor. There was an illustration of arrows creating a cross. I said we’d look more into the down, the in and the out…

DOWN

Stewardship begins at creation, where God first comes down to us. In the first chapter of Genesis, God forms humankind in God’s own image and commands them:

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).

A steward is someone who cares for someone else’s property. From the beginning, humanity is not an owner, but a steward of what God has created. We are first receivers, not givers! God’s love comes down to us in Jesus Christ.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us, to bring us salvation and new life. God also comes down to us in the sacrament of baptism. In baptism, we are claimed as children of God. We belong to God and all that we have belongs to God. We are bearers of God’s love, grace and gospel. Stewardship begins with God coming down to us in love and sharing some of what is His with us. We are a church that belongs to Christ, and there is a place for all here.

IN

God has skillfully created us and blessed us with more than we could ever imagine. We are fearfully and wonderfully made! God knows us deeply and has created each of us uniquely. God has entrusted us with an abundance of tangible and intangible resources — time, talents, treasure and so much more. While our gifts may seem meager, put in the hands of God, these gifts can become so much more.

In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus takes a little boy’s lunch and blesses it to feed thousands. Even in the midst of scarcity, God provides in abundance. God gives in abundance that we might share in abundance.

The apostle Paul writes, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

When we realize that all we have belongs to God and not to us, we can’t help but give it away in thanksgiving for God’s generosity to us. We give joyfully, graciously and sacrificially because we know that our resources are not ours to keep but are God’s to share.

OUT

We look out to see how God is calling us to love our neighbor with all that God has entrusted to our care. We are a church that believes Jesus is God’s “Yes” to us. Our lives can be a “Yes” to others. Stewardship is one way that we can be that “Yes” to others. When asked: “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus responds,

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it:   ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39).

We are called to love, not just with our words but with our whole lives. Stewardship is the way that we use all of our resources — time, talents, possessions and money — to love God and our neighbor. The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 exemplifies this type of stewardship. The Samaritan gave generously of his time, his possessions, and his money. He took a detour from his own travels just to help a hurting man, who was more of an enemy than a friend. Stewardship transforms God’s commandment to “love our neighbors as ourselves” from just an expression… into a way of life.

Thank you in advance for spending the time to read this article. I leave you with a song, as I ask that you reflect, separately, on each of these—down, in, out—in your life.

May God the Father, Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit bless your journey.

Respectfully submitted,

Lori Jarvey