Expanding our definition and focus on the stewardship of life can create thankfulness in our hearts.
I believe that the church can be a relevant force in the life of our members by proclaiming a significantly broader interpretation of stewardship. This interpretation can be a meaningful model to vitalize the lives of our members and to grow in our faith. We are called to be good stewards of the Gospel and to proclaim the risen Christ.
This is a call to a greater focus on stewardship as a means to grow in faith and grace. I believe that we need to make significant enhancements to our understanding of the word “Stewardship” in order to increase the relevance of the church and to increase our faith. Although we profess a wider understanding of stewardship, we have allowed it to be primarily focused on the given of money. Even when we add time and talent to our discussion, the message we hear is related to money.
We need to focus on the “need of the giver to give” versus the “need of the institution to receive.” If we are thankful for what we have, we will be elated to make first fruits gifts. We have let the day-to-day pressures influence our real reason for our spirituality, we will have exciting results. When we focus on the financial, we will continue to have mediocre results.
Focusing on the spiritual need to give will increase the giving of time and money.
In baptism, we are called to be faithful, we are called to be good stewards and we are given the promise that God will be with us always. The call to faithfulness is fairly well proclaimed. The call to good stewardship has not been proclaimed with the same zeal or time. We sometimes forget the promise. The need to focus on total stewardship from young ages to old can keep us in a growing faith relationship with God.
Let’s look at some of the dimensions of stewardship that are relevant and can add zest to our preaching, our teaching, our learning and our faith. Our primary focus needs to be on the acceptance that everything we have is a gift from God. When we lose this focus, we begin a downward spiral towards self-dependence. We begin to put our trust in other than God. This was the sin of the rich man in the parable. When we maintain the proper focus we grow in our faith and our dependence on God. To be good stewards, we are to use the gifts we have been given to His glory. How do we increase our focus on God as the Giver of all? It doesn’t just happen. It has to be a priority for our leaders and teachers in order for it to be a priority for our members. One way to begin is to focus on being good stewards in all our stages of life:
Childhood – We can begin the stewardship journey by talking about stewardship of our childhood.
Behavior, learning, co-existing, respect for parents, caring for God’s creation and learning to share are among the topics we can discuss with young people. These do not stop with childhood. Our basic habits are developed in these years. We need to use this time as parents, teachers, and leaders to develop a good understanding of stewardship and to develop good stewards.
Teenage – This age offers a broad range of issues that can be discussed relative to our stewardship. Education, foreign substances, sex, time management, mental health, asset building, development of our personalities, dating, community involvement, career preparation, and financial management are all fruitful ground for help to identify WHOSE we are.
Adulthood – We need to be reminded of our baptism and our gifts. We need to be thankful for ur gifts. We need to be challenged to give first fruits of ourselves, including our time, talent and money. We make giving a priority in our lives to acknowledge that everything we have is a gift from God. We are stewards of our own lives. We are the stewards of our children, and jobs, our income, our time, and often of our parents. We need to be encouraged to make necessary plans for our lives and for the lives of our families should we leave this earth. Goal setting, financial planning and wills implementation are areas where the church needs to enhance our ministry to our members.
Older adulthood – Making a difference is a major concern of this age group. How do we make a difference?
This requires the goal setting and priority skills developed in earlier stages. We can make a difference in our families, our church and in our communities. All of these are parts of God’s creation. One is no holier than the other. A second concern is one of being alone. Are we continuing to develop the necessary interests and hobbies that will keep us involved in our families and in our communities?
We have a need to be good stewards of our leisure time. Are we making the appropriate plans should we develop needs beyond those available to us in our normal environment? How do we prepare for living longer, for being alone, possible health problems, and for dying and death of ourselves or our loved ones? How do we plan for effective distribution of our assets at death? Have we considered continuation of the church and its mission when we are no longer here to support it?
Expanding our definition and focus on the stewardship of life can create thankfulness in our heart. This thankfulness can then result in joyful giving. We have many joyful givers today. We also have a much larger number of dutiful givers. We are missing the greatest joy of all: returning to God what has been loaned to us to use!
© Copyright 1998, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This essay first appeared in the Summer 1998 issue of Faith in Action. Articles in Faith in Action may be reproduced for use in ELCA and ELCIC congregations provided each copy carries the note:
© Copyright 1998, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an article from the archives of the Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship. For nearly a century, LLM assisted, inspired and trained congregations in important ways. LLM ceased operations on May 31, 2003, but the Stewardship of Life Institute is proud to continue its work by making its web resources available to a new generation of stewards.