Stewardship is one of those words that creates an instant image in our minds. We are often pre-disposed to presume the meaning of the term. Politicians talk of being good stewards of the public trust. Plane rides are made a little more comfortable with the aid of stewards and stewardesses. And these uses of the term fit with the secular definitions offered in dictionaries.
But what about the religious context of Stewardship? The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary defines ‘steward’ as:
a word used to translate a number of terms and expressions in the Bible; common to all is the idea of overseeing possessions, business affairs, property, servants, education, etc. Also is a sense that every Christian is a steward entrusted with a divine gift. The Faithfull’s wise stewardship of gifts and talents will result in blessings and rewards, but unfaithfulness will result in judgment.
This seems to conform to the common, everyday understanding of the term.
At mass, we hear stewardship talked about in terms of Time, Talent and Treasure. And every year we hear from our Bishops about giving to their Stewardship Appeal. Their pamphlets divulge the diocesan sources and uses of resources and highlight the various organizations that benefit from our financial generosity. This is very good.
But let’s get more personal – dig a little deeper. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops defines stewardship as:
an expression of discipleship with the power to change how we understand and live out our lives. Disciples who practice good stewardship recognize God as the origin of life, the giver of freedom and the source of all they have and are and will be. In other words, what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Our challenge – to each of us individually and to us in community in our parishes – is to discern how to incorporate the Bishops’ definition as integral to how we live our everyday lives. How do we use our time? How do we engage our talent? How do we spend our treasure? In all that we think and all that we do how do we glorify God and build His kingdom? How do we become better disciples?
The first step is to want to. Phil 2:13 says God works in us to drive our desires and our works for His good. Our love for God makes us want to obey His laws (Jn 14:15). One must be converted in heart and mind. One must muster the courage to take the proactive steps necessary for being a disciple of Jesus. What steps? Matthew 6:33 instructs us to seek first the Kingdom. Thankfully, the Catholic Church provides a plethora of activities and exercises to pursue the Kingdom.
Think about it. If each of us, individually and in community, would seek God and His Kingdom first in our daily lives, what might we accomplish in our homes, our parishes and in the larger community? Like a laser takes the randomness of light particles and focuses them into a beam that can cut steel, what could we as community do to build God’s Kingdom when we harness our individual desires to be better disciples?
The Bishops remind us of what we know by faith to be true – that Stewardship has the power to change how we understand and live our lives. Good Stewards can’t help but respond to God’s gifts with the generous sharing of all of our resources – including money – as central to the practice of discipleship.
This ministry focuses on the Treasure aspect of stewardship. We strive for metanoia – a radical conversion and profound change of mind and heart. We’ll draw from a variety of resources including the Catechism and of course, the Bible. While money is a recurrent theme in the Bible, foundational passages to which we’ll refer often are:
Matthew 6: 19-33
Do not store up treasures on earth…But store up treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and mammon
Deut 8: 11-18
Be careful not to forget the Lord…lest when you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses, and have increased your gold and silver, you become haughty of heart and unmindful of the Lord…
You might say to yourself, “It is my own power and strength that has obtained for me this wealth.” Remember, it is the Lord, your God who gives you the power to acquire wealth…
1 Peter 4: 10
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Malachi 3: 8-10
Will anyone rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, “How are we robbing you?” In your tithes and offerings…Bring the full tithe into the storehouse…put me to the test…see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
1 Timothy 6: 7-10, 18-19
…for we brought nothing into this world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains…They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.