During the autumn months, most churches will have a stewardship campaign. Budgets will be presented. Members will be asked to support the mission and ministry of the church. Governing boards will hope that the membership will pledge enough support to keep the church going through the coming year. This is what most church members think about when the topic of stewardship comes up. We think about giving financial resources to the church. Such a focus misses the full meaning of stewardship.
In the biblical context, a steward was entrusted with all of the resources of their master. To be granted the position of the steward was the highest position that any person could have in a wealthy person’s estate. Jesus told several parables about stewards. Sometimes the steward was faithful. More often, the steward failed in their duties. In each case, the steward was expected to manage the master’s estate in the best interest of the master. That is the point of stewardship. Those who have been entrusted with the Master’s resources are given these resources to manage as the Master would manage them.
In the Episcopal Church, one of our prayers is, “Open, O Lord, the eyes of all people to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works, that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, they may honor thee with their substance, and be faithful stewards of thy bounty.” I would guess that most denominations have a similar prayer. The prayer acknowledges that how we treat everything we have gives us the opportunity to honor the Lord with what the Lord has given to us.
The way in which we honor the Lord with our money says something about whether we recognize the Lord’s gracious hand. The way in which we honor the Lord with our homes also says something. Do we use our homes to express the hospitality the Lord has shown to us, or do others feel unwelcome? What about our time? Is our time primarily spent for our own enjoyment, or do we give our time freely to serve others? How about the way we use natural resources? Do we recognize that our waste of natural resources might harm others with whom we share those resources?
I do not mean to say that stewardship has nothing to do with money. Rather, money in only one part of our obligation as stewards of God’s good creation. Stewardship is all about how we view everything in this world, even our own lives. To be good stewards means that we recognize that all we have and all we are belongs to the Lord. If we are good stewards, we will use these things to the glory of the Lord.
RJ Johnson is a rector at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Sheridan.