Like a lot of faith communities, the Table takes time in October and November to refresh ourselves on the meaning of stewardship.
And it can be a really hard concept to grasp, especially if you’ve only ever learned about it in the context of giving money to support a ministry or organization.
But stewardship is more!
The psalmist in Psalm 65 (v. 9-11) speaks of God’s care for the earth.
You visit the earth
and make it abundant,
enriching it greatly
by God’s stream, full of water.
You provide people with grain
because that is what you’ve decided.
Drenching the earth’s furrows,
leveling its ridges,
you soften it with rain showers;
you bless its growth.
You crown the year
with your goodness;
your paths overflow with rich food.
At the heart of stewardship is ownership – what do we really own? Our consumeristic society teaches us that we work hard and earn something for it. We then trade or buy for things that we need to live and enjoy life. However, all of those things that we use at their most basic level were not created by us. The oil that we pull from the earth to power our plants and cars was not created by us. The wood and stone and dirt that we build our homes, livelihoods, and gardens from were not created out of thin air. Even the oxygen we breathe is a gift that comes to us out of creation itself.
And so at some level, all that we receive in our lives – every bite of food, every paycheck, every breath – depends on someone or something else moving on our behalf.
This is the underlying concept of stewardship – it’s recognizing that all we have in our lives, whether it is a lot or very little, is a gift. And if it is a gift, then how can we not share it freely with others since we ourselves received it so freely? Stewardship recognizes that we are not really owners in as much as we are caretakers of these resources. We might use them for a time but then insure that others in need and future generations will enjoy these gifts as well.
And so this season of stewardship is less about how much money you might give – it’s more about how we as a community respond to the ways God has blessed us and how we shall share those blessings with others.
Later this week, I’ll tackle a couple of other questions, like how much we give and how our giving can reshape the world.