by The Rev. Dr. Stuart Baskin
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
Seems like an easy question. But what is it, really? Most of us, I suspect, when we hear the word, think about the church during stewardship season, and we think “fundraising”. But that begs the question. Yes, it often has to do with money, and yes, unfortunately, we use the term most often in relation to the season when we are asking for pledges for the coming year.
But stewardship is a much larger concept than simply fundraising. In fact, it is a term that represents much of the Christian life. Understanding the idea of stewardship gets us a long way in understanding what the Christian life is all about.
At its most basic level, stewardship is about caring for things that either belong to someone else, or that have been handed on to us by someone else. Let’s take a bank, for example. We all have bank accounts somewhere. When we place our money in a bank, we are trusting that the bank will keep our funds safe and that they will be available when we need them. And they generally do a very good job of this. None of us seriously doubts that when we write a check or use our debit card (assuming we have funds to cover the charge), the bank will honor the transaction. Banks are stewards of our money. They are morally responsible to us, the account holders, to keep our funds safe and prudently managed.
Or let’s take a family heirloom. Amy and I have a number of heirlooms in our possession, from our dining room set that belonged to my great-grandparents, to a breakfront that belonged to Amy’s grandparents, to a bed that my great-great-great grandfather bought for his daughter, my great-great grandmother. Some of these things are lovely, and some lovely in the eye of the beholder. But what they all share in common is the fact that we are simply stewards of them for awhile until it is time to pass them on to the next generation. So while we own them, we think of ourselves as stewards of them to keep them safe and in good repair until we pass them on.
Stewardship is all about trust. It’s about what God has entrusted to us. The church becomes the steward of the gifts and resources, both human and physical resources, as well as the financial resources that we all give to the church. But each of us is a steward of the resources God has given us, including the financial resources we may have.
So the question for each one of us this stewardship season is really pretty simple: why has God entrusted us with the resources we have, and what does God expect us to do with these resources?