Posted: Oct 13

Stewardship is Everything We Do

By Bruce Rockwell

Last month I wrote that sometimes people tell me the only time they hear the word stewardship mentioned in church is when pledge cards are about to appear again.  Is that true in the church where you worship?  If so, let us look at how we might change that.  Or how we might suggest some changes.

church.jpgIf the church only talks about stewardship when it wants to talk about the financial commitment program, it reinforces the idea that stewardship is merely the church’s fancy name for fundraising. 

While our stewardship (or management) of the financial resources God entrusts to us as individuals and families is an important aspect of stewardship, it is only part of it.

Stewardship is everything we do after we profess our belief in God. 

We are stewards of our lives and of our bodies.  We are stewards of our time.  We are stewards of the relationships we have with our families and friends.  We are stewards of the abilities, or some would call them “gifts,” those things we are good at, those things we love and enjoy doing.  We are stewards of all of those things. And, of course, we are stewards of the money God entrusts to us, as I said before.

With that understanding, every conscious, or even unconscious, act we do is an act of stewardship. When we do anything, we are using our God-given gifts to do it.  For example, my taking the time to write this blog is an act of stewardship.  It is stewardship because I am using some of the time God entrusts to me.  It is stewardship because I am using the ability to write and to think that God entrusts to me. 

When you think about it, our faith is also a gift from God.

So, even expressions of our faith are acts of stewardship. When we gather on Sunday to worship and praise God, we are being stewards.  When the preacher preaches, she or he is being a steward. When the choir sings and the organist plays, those are acts of stewardship. When the Altar Guild sets up for the Eucharist, those are acts of stewardship.  I could go on and on with examples, but I trust you get the idea.

This understanding reminds me of a phrase the Office of Stewardship of the Episcopal Church used back in the 80’s.  The phrase was Stewardship is the Main Work of the Church.  I remember a friend protesting about that, saying, “How can fund-raising be the main work of the church?”  That gave me a wonderful opportunity to tell him some of the things I am saying here.

The word steward comes from the old English word styweard, meaning keeper of the pigs.  The sty warden, kept the pigs so that the household could eat and survive.  The sty warden did not own the pigs.  He was a servant of the lord of the manor who entrusted the care and feeding of the pigs to him.

The word steward also comes from two Greek words, Oikos Nomos, meaning rule, or management of the household.  You can see how it relates to the styweard.  The steward does not own the household.  He or she is a servant who managed the household for the master.  God, who is our Master, owns all that is and entrusts responsibilities to us to care for and to manage the gifts God entrusts to us.

With that understanding, you can see that we can talk about stewardship throughout the year.  We can talk about it when it involves our personal stewardship responsibilities and opportunities. And we can talk about it when it involves our communal responsibilities in the Church.  The members of the parish finance committee are stewards as they administer the financial offerings its members make. The members of the property and ground committee are stewards as they care for the physical plant that makes up the parish … facilities that have been passed down from generation to generation.  The members of the Christian education team are stewards of the hearts and minds of those who take part in the formation activities of the church. 

Now perhaps you can see why stewardship can be talked about and should be talked about all year round.  Not only is it proper that we speak about the gifts with which we’ve been entrusted, but by doing so, we help to educate the members of the church about the broad and far-reaching aspects of stewardship.

One final thought:  when you wake up tomorrow, you might thank God for the gift of the new day and ask God’s blessing upon your stewardship of that new day.  May all that we do tomorrow be offerings to God. And may we be good stewards of the day.