It’s that time of year. The leaves are turning, the air is cooling, and we’re talking about stewardship in our churches.
In our office we have healthy debates about that word: stewardship. What does it mean? How do we respond to it? Is “philanthropy” an acceptable replacement? How do we better our understanding of our identity as stewards in God’s world?
In his book Stewardshift, Bob Sitze explains stewardship with three characteristics; he writes:
“Stewardship is a set of beliefs. Your beliefs center on God, not yourself: God’s nature, God’s will, God’s gifts, God’s presence.
Stewardship describes practices or behaviors. Your beliefs compel actions, reactions to God’s gifts, and obedience to God’s commands.
Stewardship becomes an identity. Over time, your actions become habits which, in turn, layer themselves over the core of your being: a servant of God.”
“When you come to the point of integrating beliefs, actions, and identity into your sense of self, stewardship describes a way of life that is satisfying and joyful. Stewardship theology and practice have a strong possibility of rejuvenating the faith lives of believers and the congregations they form.”
I wonder how many of us would raise our hands to say yes, when we hear the word “stewardship”, we think of a way of life that is satisfying and joyful. Messages of worry, accumulation, and scarcity pummel us everyday; it can be difficult to overcome them and remember to center ourselves on God’s nature, will, gifts and presence.
I love Sitze’s comment that at the core of our being, we are servants of God. Clearly this means we should live our lives differently, serving God and not ourselves. We all know what hard work that is, but the joy we feel in return and the promise of life everlasting makes it worth the effort and, at times, the sacrifice.
As the year comes to an end, let’s reflect on our identities as stewards. How are we reacting to God’s gifts? Are we keeping them for ourselves or are we responding with gratitude and generosity of our own? Remembering our own need for grace and how it has been extended to us through Christ, how can we answer God’s call to share grace with others?