On Stewardship

 

 

I’ve taught on the subject of stewardship a few times in Sunday School and I’ll address the same 3 main questions here as I do there, just more personally and with slightly more grown-up language:

  1. Are we talking about boats today?
  2. Why do we give?
  3. What does God do with what we give?

Not quite Noah’s Ark

“No, we’re not talking about boats today…”

“Aw, man.” 

“…but we’re going to talk about a chance you have to act like a sea captain.”

Put on your captain’s hat because you’re in charge of the S.S. Piggy Bank! We each have a ship filled with our assets that we steer into different ports, making drop-offs as we see fit. God has entrusted us with the resources we’ve been given and it’s up to us to judiciously divert it to places where it can continue to further God’s kingdom.

Now this metaphor clearly sprung from my work with the kids, but I’ve actually come to really like it because it importantly emphasizes that we are a conduit for our resources and not the final destination. God’s blessings are as much a responsibility as they are a gift, and our call is to be prayerful and discerning in how we spend them. Viewing our assets as things to be distributed not only supports that practice, but also cultivates a spirit of generosity and guards our hearts against becoming reliant on earthly things. That doesn’t mean I don’t save for the future, but it does mean that I consistently try to orient my heart towards identifying where I can provide relief and expansion for others.

 

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

But why do we give in the first place? For me, giving starts from a place of recognizing what I have. One of my most important spiritual practices has been nurturing a consistent deliberate appreciation for the blessings big and small in my life. Particularly for a natural-born worrier like myself, it’s been a vital way that I recognize God’s sovereignty and acknowledge that my trust is ultimately in His plan and provision. That practice expands my capacity to share from a place of freedom and giving can then become a form of worship and praise. From there, I can commit that with those blessings I will try to bless others.

Because ultimately, what is our call on this earth, but to bring about God’s kingdom? We are a part of a community of Christians that has spanned generations and millennia, all of whom have been tasked with reflecting the face of God to others so that they may more deeply know Him. I’ve been deeply enriched by others doing that exact thing and my aim is to pay it forward. Giving is one of the ways we put our faith into action and depending on where we are sending our money, we are supporting the continuing growth and flourishing of God’s kingdom and the larger story at work on this earth.

I’ll be the first to admit that every time I crack open my checkbook or look at the annual pledge card, there’s still an instinctual Gollum-like grip on my heart saying “Are you sure about that?” But my giving-related regrets have never been that I gave too much. And I’m teaching myself to use those moments of hesitation as a reminder to pray blessings on what that giving will become…

 

Five Loaves and Two Fishies

…because what does God do with what we give? He takes our 2 copper coins and transforms it vastly beyond its apparent means. He takes everyday things and makes them holy, multiplying what we put forth.

The donations to the kitchen capital campaign will become thousands of meals and those meals in turn will be thousands of opportunities for our brothers and sisters to experience a God that loves them. A retreat scholarship becomes a chance for the hard work of community integration to take place and the feeding of our relational souls. A meal to new parents creates just a little more capacity for presence to the family.

And $10’s worth of popsicle sticks and paper cups can become:

onsteward1

At first, you might squint and perhaps see a couple of dioramas of our church building, but in the 20 minutes it took to design and assemble them, I saw our kids challenged to see Jesus in each other and to love one another even when it’s hard. I heard them delve into understanding what makes a church a church (hint: it’s not the cross on the front door!). And I know another link was added to the bonds of community that will support their faith walk for years to come.

None of these things necessarily start out as something flashy; more often than not they’re rather mundane things. But our imaginations and limited understanding can put a harness on what we think is possible. Giving is a route through which I can recognize and honor what God can do through His own work and other people that I cannot. In a way, it’s its own small act of faith, entrusting both that God will make sure I stay afloat, but also that He will see to it that my giving is transformed into something beyond what I could ever imagine or do. Recognizing that where my limits end, God’s works can transcend.

Finally, while this post is about financial stewardship, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you could substitute the concept of money here with your talents, time, hospitality, and presence and it’d still be just as true. What better way to be the face of the living God on this earth than to serve in a ministry, share a meal, or be a comforting ear to someone?

In sum:

onsteward2

— Pam Wong

Pam Wong is an All Angels’ parishioner, JH youth group leader, and host to the Brooklyn HC.

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