Posted: Jul 12

Our Primary Stewardship Issue is Not Money

By Kristine Miller

I am often asked about other areas of stewardship, "After all," I am instructed, "stewardship includes taking care of all of God's gifts, not just the money!" This is, of course, absolutely true. Stewardship of money is typically in the forefront because it has been described as the most difficult for those who are following the way of Jesus. Those of us who teach stewardship often point to the abundance of references to money and possessions in the Bible as well as the emphasis of Jesus' parables regarding the hold money has on all of us.

I still believe money/finances/possessions can have a debilitating impact. My experience as a stewardship consultant has convinced me that the number one barrier to spiritual growth is that we often love our stuff more than we love Jesus. Recently, however, statistics and personal observations have caused me to become increasingly concerned about another area of stewardship--stewardship of our bodies.

green-salad-1266226-m---copy.jpgHow we care for the most tangible God-given gift we have received is one of the most neglected topics in the stewardship arena and one of the most vital.

In the United States, obesity rates, especially among children, are considered epidemic. The CDC states that 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States are obese (defined by the CDC as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of their growth charts). This is triple the rate from just one generation ago. Our technology has largely contributed to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and fast food has replaced healthy, home-cooked meals eaten together with the family. As a frequent flyer, I am surprised by the number of people I see schlepping their roller bags and substantial bodies through the airport while sipping a Big Gulp!

Most troubling of all is that it has become as much of a taboo topic as the topic of money.

Perhaps you even cringed as you read the previous paragraph. It is considered distasteful to mention the number of people (including clergy, Bishops, and lay leaders) who seem to be determined to preach and teach good stewardship while clearly neglecting the care and keeping of their bodies. I personally know of a Bishop, priest and lay stewardship advocate who all died from issues directly related to the neglect of their physical selves.

In case you need more convincing, here is my case:

  1. Many of God's gifts are replenishable (i.e. money) while only one body is given per person. Each day the gift is one day older and more challenging to care for. By learning good stewardship early in life, one has a much higher chance of having a body to care for later in life. Your body is a gift that enables many others--your spirit, your sense of humor, your ability to play the piano or hold your grandchild. It is worth whatever effort is needed for its care and keeping.

  2. Not unlike giving away money, stewardship of the body actually feels good. Those who have grown accustomed to giving away substantial amounts of money (say tithers, for example) talk about the joy of giving. While considered by some to be a sacrifice, generous giving has been described by many as a gift. The same can be said about taking care of the physical self. When your body is well cared for--rested, fit, well-fed--you feel good!

  3. Poor physical condition leads to a litany of other issues such as health concerns, mobility issues, and prohibits us from living fully into God's image.  Taking care of our bodies enables us to move with agility, think cleverly and live longer, happier lives of servanthood. The better care we take of ourselves, the more we have to give back to God.

While resources are readily available on health and wellness, I intend to offer some personal reflections and insights regarding this vital stewardship issue in the months ahead. In the meantime, let me know what you think. Is stewardship of the body becoming an increasingly important concern for the church?