Forming Faith Blog

Whole-Life Stewardship

Free Resource: Being a Good Steward (Spirit & Truth 3rd-6th Activity)
Bible Readings: Matthew 6:19-34; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 12:13-34

What Is Stewardship?

Now it’s time to focus on stewardship, either as the third summer series of the Narrative Lectionary, or just because it’s an important faith topic. But, what do we mean by stewardship? The biblical teaching of stewardship, as I see it, starts with two basic statements:

  1. Our entire life, all that we have and all that we are, belongs to God and is only on loan to us (Psalm 24:1).
  2. “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is like this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:30-31).
What Is Wealth?

The three passages in this Narrative Lectionary series (Matthew 6:19-34; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 12:13-34) all address the topic of wealth. Wealth is about more than money and possessions. Like my first point above, wealth is about all that we have and all that we are. We have our money and possessions, but we also have time, relationships, reputation, and other “intangible assets.” We are a collection of personality, memories, skills, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and whatever else makes you yourself. All of these are creations of God, and ultimately God’s. “The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1).

What Is Service?

So, that’s what wealth is, what are we to do with it? We are to follow God’s call and command, to love God with all that we are (and all that we have) and to love others with all that we are (and all that we have). We are to put love into action, which is how I define service. Stewardship is using our wealth in service toward God and others.

Bad Stewardship

The ways of our world (the kingdom of this world) are bad stewardship. The basic tenets of stewardship are reversed.

  1. All that we have and all that we are belongs to us, either individually (me) or collectively (our family/clan/tribe/etc.).
  2. Success is measured by gaining more (possessions) or better (self-improvement) wealth, which includes keeping what you already have.

The focus of bad stewardship is on me. Wealth is from me and for me; it’s mine. We call this greed. Another way to put this is that bad stewardship, the focus on ourselves, is sin. With this mindset, our confidence and self-worth come from our wealth (again this is both possessions and self).

Stewardship in the Kingdom of God

The kingdom of God is upside down from this. The focus is not on ourselves, but on God and by extension, the people and the rest of creation that God loves. The focus is on love. Unconditional, self-giving love is the defining feature of God’s kingdom. Loving God includes having complete trust in God and God’s promise. Good stewardship is love. It’s what defines righteousness (though I dislike the word because in most people’s minds it is synonymous with self-righteousness).

“Now, this is all well and good,” you might say, “but if we give everything away and only serve others, we will be homeless and hungry.” That, unfortunately, is true. God’s kingdom has not yet come in its fullness. We still live in the kingdom of this world, and this kingdom is based on the self. We are also both saint and sinner, righteous only by God’s action. So, God calls us to:

“Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”

  • John Wesley

Do your work well and figure out how to do it for others. Consider how you spend (and donate) your money and try to support ethical products, services, and organizations. How can you use your time, talents, and skills to serve others?

Faith Formation and Stewardship

You knew this was coming, right? I produce and sell faith formation products, so I must bring it back here. But, it’s not difficult to do. My definition of good stewardship is basically the life God calls us to live. It’s who God calls us to be. So, good stewardship is the goal of faith formation. Faith has a double meaning, both the trust relationship that defines our innermost being (a gift from God) and the beliefs that teach us how to live. Faith formation gives space for the Holy Spirit to work on us, and it teaches us the beliefs and practices for living out God’s call.

Stewardship Is Not Fundraising

Note what I didn’t say in this blog on stewardship. I didn’t talk about giving money to the church. I think that is a narrow (and possibly dangerous) view of stewardship. Giving to your congregation and other worthy organizations is an essential part of good stewardship. But, stewardship is about so much more than that. It is a way of life. Given how much of life revolves around money, we certainly need to teach about good stewardship of our finances. But, please don’t leave it at that! Teaching holistically about stewardship can be life-enriching, life-sustaining. It’s the meaning of life! Only talking about financial giving (to the church) can be anxiety-producing (How can we add one more “expense” to our already tight budget?) and be perceived as self-serving for the congregation. Putting God behind this can give God a bad reputation (God only cares about sustaining the institution that worships God). Clearly, there are great ways to raise funds for the church, but stewardship is so much more than that!

Being a Good Steward

It’s important to teach the basic concepts of what stewardship is, but for people to practice being good (or better) stewards, then we need to get practical. This week’s free resource is “Being a Good Steward,” an activity from our Spirit & Truth: Teachings the Heart of Worship (3rd-6th) curriculum. It was originally designed for a classroom setting, but it can be easily used in worship or another cross+generational setting as a small group activity.

-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

 

2018-2019 (NL Year 1) faith formation materials are now available for purchase. Download Fall and Winter lessons right away! You can download the 2018-2019 Planning Tool and Scope & Sequence to start your planning for the next program year!

For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!

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