The First Consideration
“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to God’s service, you could not give Him anything that was not, in a sense, God’s own already.”
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, Chapter 11
As we are praying and reflecting on the stewardship of our parish home, we must remind ourselves of the true meaning of stewardship. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” The cornerstone of our deliberations on how much we are going to give must be understood through our faith.
In the 24th Psalm, King David reflects on the witness of God’s sovereignty laid out in Genesis 1: “The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” Ownership is, thus, the first fundamental principle of biblical stewardship, and from the beginning, our Creator God “owns” all. As with Adam and Eve, we are simply managers or administrators acting on God’s behalf. How we order our lives in reference to our common life expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control. Stewardship is the commitment of oneself and one’s resources to God’s service, recognizing all that we have is from God and is God’s.
In 2 Corinthians St. Paul writes, “God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:7) St. Paul is not simply extolling the mood of the giver, but rather the deep awareness and connection true stewardship displays. God loves a joyful giver because joyful giving can only come from a heart set on things above, not on earthly things. As God has created and sustains all things (including us), we love in response to our creation by caring for all that God has created and by giving of all that is, so that others may also know this love.
Our church has always depended upon faithful giving. Most churches do. In the past, Creator has relied heavily on “fundraisers:” the Yard Sale, the Stew Sale, and Arts in the Park. Even when Creator was at its most prosperous, we still needed these drives to sustain our budget. These events were far more than financial–they built comradery, fostered community, provided opportunities for evangelism, and witnessed to the love we have for our parish and each other. But sadly, they also fostered a worldly perspective of stewardship that moved many away from the biblical witness. Though we have an endowment (funded by single-purpose donations), in truth there is no grant, subsidy, endowment, or source of income that can replace—each one of—our call to support the mission and ministry at our parish to the Glory of God, our Creator.
I have long been saddened in my spirit when I hear lay people and clergy alike maintain the belief that our financial support to the American Cancer Institute or our alma mater is the same and takes the place of our support at the Church. I try always in these conversations to point out the biblical witness of corporate worship; gathering and giving that is the church. Pledging to worthy civic organizations is good and valued, but God’s instruction is not for us to support them in lieu of the church. When we (the church) confuse ourselves that we are simply another non-profit organization or charity, we have lost the connection that marks true devotion and enables joyful giving.
As people of faith, faith itself is the imprint of God, Stewardship in all forms and expression, is deeply embedded in the lives of each and every congregant: a fundamental truth about what it means to live an intentional and faithful life before God. Yes, we support the various organizations sending year-end drives and pleas –give generously from what is left, what you can afford. But when we support the church, our parish home, our starting place (and ending, for that matter), it is the first consideration, the first calculation, after which all other financial concerns flow.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your income. Proverbs 3:9
In Christ Jesus,
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Father Bill Burk†