A Stewardship Perspective
Five Images of Stewardship
1. The Cross
2. Our Baptism
3. The Bible
4. A half full glass
5. A very beautifully wrapped gift
Stewardship is a Faith Issue
By Lyndon Brumby, Salt Specialist
What would happen if you polled your congregation about the roots of stewardship? Maybe another way to ask that question is "What is the first response you get from members of your congregation when 'stewardship' is mentioned?" Some say, "Here we go again. The church is asking for more of my money." Or, "I can't give any more. I live on a fixed income." Some other responses might center on "How far did you say we were behind budget?" These types of responses are typical of leaving God out of the equation. The struggle and tension between secular things and sacred things is a key stewardship balance, but stewardship is a faith issue not a financial issue.
When I look back on my stewardship journey, my personal relationship with Christ has defined my relationship to things, to stuff. No other description fits my growth from giving a couple of dollars a week to being a tither and eventually a steward leader in my congregation and across the churchwide organization. That stewardship growth continuum begins with the issue of ownership. Some Sunday, try asking people in your congregation "Who ultimately owns the sanctuary?" or "Where did you really get that new car?" The first step to approaching stewardship from a faith-based perspective is to choose to see the things in our lives as coming from--and being owned by--God.
Tithing is our response to God's generosity. In my family, we choose to make a 10% share of what God has given us available for ministry in God's kingdom. To put this decision in Biblical perspective, today we might answer with Joshua: "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15)
When I think of stewardship, five images come to mind. These images paint a completely different picture of stewardship than a "money-only" stewardship orientation. I tried these out on my home congregation a few months ago when we had our last committee displays. People got a little weird when I told them the display was about stewardship!
The five images are:
1. The Cross
2. Our Baptism
3. The Bible
4. A half full glass
5. A very beautifully wrapped gift.
Let's examine these five images:
Spend some time looking at the Cross and visualize in your mind what happened leading up to, during and after Jesus' crucifixion. Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ paints this picture very clearly. Jesus was mocked by the religious community, abandoned by his disciples, beaten and nailed to a cross, died for the forgiveness of your and my sins. In His dying breath He asked God to forgive them for they knew not what they are doing!Through His resurrection we have the promise of eternal life. What a gift we have in Jesus. As a starting point, you might consider this gift next time you have a stewardship discussion.
Similarly, the next time your congregation celebrates the Sacrament of Baptism, consider the deep meaning behind what is taking place. If you need to, turn your focus away from the words of the baptismal ceremony. Focus on the roots of this tradition. Jesus provided the model, when he was set aside and dedicated to his father's work in the waters of the Jordan River. Remember what happened: God reminded the assembled crowd that Jesus was the one "in whom I am well pleased!" The rejoicing in heaven continues with every baptism! If we connect this rejoicing with the baptisms in our own congregations, imagine the impact that rejoicing could have on our fellowship!
The Bible, God's road map for life, is the key to our understanding of our role as stewards of the assets God has entrusted to us. Christian stewards take a commitment to Christian education seriously, as well as a commitment to fulfill the full depth of our baptism covenant. We have an opportunity to partner with God: the power of the Holy Spirit works through us because of our baptism and we then begin to strive to obey all of God's commandments. A clear picture of this partnership is painted in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19&20: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Many pieces of today's society illustrate a failure of many people to connect their faith with ministry in their daily lives. How are you making those connections?
The metaphor of the half full glass challenges a believer to examine one's perspective. Is the glass half full or half empty? Maybe a better question is "If you think of the glass as half empty does that imply a perception of God as a god of scarcity? Conversely, if you think of the glass as half full, does that imply a God of abundance? A half empty glass can mean one sees one's self as alone and not connected to the body of Christ. On the other hand if you think of the glass as half full, it's much easier to see one's self as a member of the larger community called the Church. As we join together with others, the glass begins to overflow and we are changed through our connection with other believers. Challenge yourself with this question: how does our connection to the body of Christ empower us be better stewards in our communities?
We all like to receive gifts from time to time but Scripture reminds us that it is better to give than to receive. One of the best gifts we'll ever receive is the gift of ourselves. God created each one of us as a unique individual who has been called and gifted for service. Next time you give or receive a beautifully wrapped gift, imagine opening the box and seeing your reflection in a mirror. Study the reflection for a short time and reflect on whose you are--be sure not to focus on who you are. We are all children of God so don't discount your importance. Good stewardship is connecting these gifts with ministry in the congregation and our communities.
Next time you have an opportunity to talk about stewardship or share your stewardship story, you might consider reflecting on these five images. Or better yet, consider choosing five images of your own. Blessings to you in your stewardship journey!
Stewardship Resources Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 8765 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631. Any part of Salt Seasonings can be reproduced for local use with attribution.
Lyndon Brumby Salt Specialist
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.