What is your immediate reaction to the word “stewardship?” I hear from too many that stewardship is just a nice, churchy way to ask for money. That kind of makes sense since most Stewardship Sundays have parishioners and the Priest asking us to consider how much we put into the envelopes. But, true meaning of stewardship is much more than about money. It is about how we live our lives. In a word, it is about discipleship.
A big step in growing deeper in our discipleship of Jesus is acknowledging, in all humility, that God gives us everything. Every single thing we have and all we are is because of God’s gracious generosity. The Bible teaches us this truth in 1 Chronicles 29:11-14 and in Act 17:25. When we embrace this, when we take God at His word, we can’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude. We are in awe of His lavish generosity. As Disciples, we should want to try to emulate Him. We wonder how we should respond to all these blessings. Psalm116:12 asks the question for us, “How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me?”
Thankfully, the Church gives us the template of how to respond. She gives us the three pillars of how we put our faith and our stewardship into practice: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. We emphasize these during Lent, but they are meant for everyday use.
Catholic.net in the article Joy of Lent, Liturgical Cycle C gives a great explanation of these practices.
Prayer purifies our intentions and relates everything we do to God.
Fasting detaches us from ourselves and our comforts.
Almsgiving is giving to the needs of the poor and reflects our brother/sisterhood with them. It is imitating the generosity of Jesus and reminds us that our wealth is not in things, but in the love of God. Here are a few Bible verses on giving alms:
- Luke 11:41 But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.
- Deuteronomy 26:10 “Now, therefore, I have brought the first fruits of the products of the soil which you, LORD, have given me.” You shall set them before the LORD, your God, and you shall bow down before the LORD, your God.
- Sirach 7:10 Do not be impatient in prayer or neglect almsgiving.
- Sirach 35:4 One who gives alms presents a sacrifice of praise.
We do usually understand Almsgiving in terms of giving money. So in that sense, the true meaning of stewardship encompasses money. As well it should. Think about it – can you go a single day without using money? You may not use a credit card or venmo, but you use resources every day that cost you money. If discipleship is about how we live our llves, shouldn’t something as ubiquitous as money is in our lives be a part of our spiritual life, part of our discipleship?
Yes, of course it should. But we seem to have a huge disconnect between our faith life and our financial life. It’s as if we disciples say something like, “Lord, you be first in my life, in every area of my life. Oh – but not the money part, Lord. I got that.”
The data tell a different story. So many people have mountains of consumer and credit card debt to climb. Financial stress is cited as a leading cause of divorce. How we’ve been handling our finances isn’t working out too well. Something needs to change.
Put God First
What needs to change is that we need to include God in our financial life. We need to put God first in every area of our lives – including money. That is the true meaning of stewardship. When I finally accepted this truth, my life changed. I was doing what everyone seems to do, buying stuff I thought would make me happy and look successful. Getting the newest phone, buying a bigger TV, leasing luxury cars all made me feel good on the outside. But inside, the payment demands were stressing me to the max. And something gnawed at me. I knew I wasn’t giving what I should be giving at church. The $10 or $20 I happened to have in my pocket on Sunday was a pittance compared to what I was paying for the stuff that I knew had no lasting value.
By the grace of God, it dawned on me that I should be honest with myself about how I was able to do what I did and earn what I earned. I should be honest about how much God blesses me and my family. I should make a return to God that sincerely reflects how blessed I am.
When I took that step of faith, put God first in my budget, and started tithing, what happened? Did we miss any meals? Did any bills go unpaid? No. What happened is that I gained a sense of peace I cannot explain. It is the peace of God that surpasses understanding. It is the peace that the world and stuff do not bring. Only God gives us peace like that.
If you have financial stress in your life, I encourage you to look at your giving. Is God first in your spending plan? Are you giving Him the amount that reflects how grateful you are for all the blessings and benefits He gives to you? Think about it, if we all gave what God asks us to give, how much more money would there be to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, educate children, help single moms keep their babies? Our lives would have more meaning by supporting ministries that do these works of mercy. Our communities would be better for it. And as a result, we would change the world.
Put God first in your finances. Give in return for His blessings. Gain that peace you seek. Change the world.