At a conference I attended earlier this year, I heard a speaker say:
“The word ‘stewardship’ is like a really great sponge: it absorbs a lot of meaning wherever it’s placed.”
What has your stewardship sponge absorbed? Is there anything in it that needs to be squeezed out so that new stewardship beliefs, ideas, and practices can be soaked up?
At our recent Celebrate Stewardship conferences, we began by asking participants to share the first word that came to mind when they heard the word “stewardship.” It probably won’t surprise you that the most common responses were “time, talent, and treasure,” as well as “money.”
Yes, stewardship involves these things, but it’s so much more! It’s a way of life. Unfortunately the association between money and the church’s need for it is very strong, so much so that many congregations avoid even using the word “stewardship.”
We think that’s a mistake. It’s time to squeeze the old “stewardship means money” idea from our sponges and soak up something new: the incredible responsibility, privilege, and joy that comes from following Christ and being God’s stewards.
What exactly does that mean?
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, I wanted more and more responsibility. I was delighted when a teacher allowed me to look after the class pet for a weekend or gave me the task of overseeing the class library; it meant I was viewed as capable, trustworthy, and responsible.
God knows we are capable, trustworthy, and responsible as well. As stewards, we thoughtfully care for all God has entrusted to us; moreover, through that care, we don’t hoard for ourselves, but give to others. As author Charles Lane wrote, “We are responsible to the rest of creation to manage what is God’s for the benefit of others, being a serving steward.”
God loves us so much that God entrusts a portion of His creation to us. What a privilege! Think of it this way: “God is always working on my behalf. God loves and trusts me so much that I get to steward time, talent, treasure, and more to make the world more like how God wants it to be for me and for everyone.” How do we, then, as faithful stewards, respond as we work on God’s behalf?
God is doing a new thing, again and again and again, and we’re a part of it. This calls for much rejoicing! We will sing “Joy to the World” in a few months as we celebrate the greatest gift of all: our Lord, Jesus Christ. More joy! How can that joy, the Christmastime light of the world transformative joy, not be a part of our stewardship?! We get to share that light with the whole world through how we use the time, talent, treasure, and testimony God has entrusted to us. I imagine if you think of a recent way you gave of one of those “t’s”, you would feel joy. I once read the following: “God’s passion for giving culminated in the gift of His son, Jesus Christ. As God’s creation, we too must have a passion to give!” There is much joy to be found through passionate stewardship.
Give your stewardship sponge a squeeze. Let any water that equates “stewardship” only with “money for my church” go down the drain. Now let your sponge soak up a holistic definition of stewardship: all you do with your life. Feel the responsibility, privilege and joy that comes from that new stewardship water. Is it easy to be a faithful steward? No. It’s a journey we are all on together and as we travel, we celebrate and give thanks for all God created, for all God entrusted to us, and for all we can do through Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.