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Being a Steward

Text: Micah 6:6-8
This sermon defines stewardship and invites the participants to reflect on answers to these two question:
1. Who were the people in my life that helped shape my understanding, actions or appreciation of stewardship and what made their efforts so memorable to me?

2. What attitudes and actions made a significant difference and inspired stewardship in me?


Being a Steward
by Cheryl Chatman
At Rethinking Stewardship Conference
Opening Worship
Micah 6:6-8

Lord, I'm available to you.
My will I give to you,
I'll do what you say do,
use me Lord,
to show someone the way,
and enable them to say,
my storage is empty,
and I am available to you.
by gospel songwriter, Carliss Moody, Jr.)

Good afternoon.

First of all we give honor to God, who is such an awesome, merciful, gracious, loving, forgiving and caring Father. I thank Him for not giving up on me...

Then I want to thank all who have planned, sponsored and now for those of you attending this conference, for seeing the importance and the need to "Rethink Stewardship," so that we can "do all the good we can, in all the ways we can, to all of the people we can, for as long as we can, all to the glory of God.  

A 'steward' is a person who takes care of the affairs or property of another. Now since we know that everything that we have on earth belongs to God, we are therefore God's stewards. How a steward cares for what is entrusted to him or her is stewardship.

A role the church plays is to teach and inspire others to be better stewards. How does the church help God's servants discern issues raised in Micah 6:6-7, regarding the amount, size or type of gifts needed to be good stewards, to adequately take care of God's people, property and affairs? How do we inspire others to "rethink their level of stewardship," or maybe we mean, to how to inspire them to "step it up, take up a notch' in sharing their gifts?

Would you mind participating in a quick exercise with me, that I think provides a clear response in helping others see the value of stewardship. Please indulge me for just a few moments by following my brief instructions:

OK please inhale for me, breathe in, continue to breathe in, now hold it, hold it -- ok you can now breathe out. So the point I want to make is that Stewardship is like Breathing. If you just continue to take things in (breathe in), and never give back (breathing out), you won't live or survive.  

So maybe if we just started this "breathing movement" across the country, hopefully we would see some immediate increases in giving, although we may run the risk of losing some people. What may be a better movement however, is to help people to see that stewardship entails giving back to God, what He has already given to us -- our individual gifts and abilities.  

To really emphasize individual gifts piece, I want to share some brief, yet effective illustrations of the uniqueness and differences of gifts and abilities God has given us. This comes in the form of an unknown author's list of comparisons entitled "Hands."    

A basketball in my hands is worth about $25.  In LeBron James' hands, it's worth millions.  It depends on whose hands it's in`.  

A rod in my hands will keep away an angry dog. A rod in Moses' hands will part the might sea. It depends on whose hands it's in.  

A slingshot in my hands is a kid's toy. A slingshot in David's hand is a mighty weapon. It depends on whose hands it's in.

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all
(I Corinthians, 12:4-6).  

How does the church help stewards realize that stewardship is merely giving back to God by doing for His people, what He has already equipped us to do. Do you think people really get this? How can we get them to conceive it, believe it and receive it?  

As I began to reflect on the theme for this conference, I pondered the following two questions:

1. Who were the people in my life that helped shape my understanding, actions or appreciation of stewardship and what made their efforts so memorable to me?

2.  What attitudes and actions made a significant difference and inspired stewardship in me?

The answers to these questions immediately resonated with my family. Stories about my grandmother and my uncle help me to realize how the gifts God gave to them, later provided me with a deep understanding and appreciation of stewardship.  I like telling stories because they provide insights that can also serve as teachable moments.  

At family reunions and other family gatherings, it was customary for us to sit at the feet of my grandmother, the matriarch of the family, and hear family stories. Material possessions were meager but stewardship practices were prevalent. Two examples of community sharing always occurred at "hog killing" time, harvesting of crops from home gardens, and child care." It was impossible for a family to utilize a whole hog because refrigeration wasn't as advanced as it is nowadays. All the neighbors would participate and share from the bounty. Canning of fruits and vegetables was a joint effort too. Child care extended beyond the confines of the immediate family. What Hillary Clinton calls "It takes a village to raise a child," in my grandmother's time was actually 'rethinking stewardship.' People were cognizant of the pressing needs of others. During church services, if anyone was without monetary resources, someone would throw a handshake, with a coin or bill in their hand, and make it unobtrusively possible to share their resources. Children were raised by this simple rule: What we have acquired in life is a gift from God. We are responsible to share it with others. We can't beat God's giving...the more we give, the more He gives to us. My grandmother helped to preserve families, communities and generations. She was continuing and contributing to a legacy of stewardship.  

My uncle's stewardship came through his chosen career, which was being an electrician. He founded, owned and operated an electrical business. He was not satisfied just to hire people and provide for their short term financial well being. He strategized that there must be some means or methods to put them in a category that would give them a sense of self-worth and dignity. Starting with three men in his mother's garage, he taught night classes to assist journeyman to secure electrical licenses. The class grew and had to be moved to the church's fellowship hall and records indicate that 46 men attended regularly and are now either journeymen electricians or master electricians. This resulted in first time ownership of homes, cars, and tuition money for advanced education for their children, four of whom later opened their own successful electrical businesses. The stewardship trickled down through families and generations. Aside from the employees and their families, my uncle provided special treatment to senior citizens through gifts of meals, payment of bills, and home repairs. My uncle was a steward that granted opportunities, supported livelihoods, and cared for the elderly. In the next generation, the legacy continued.

I'm sure there are endless stories we could all share about the common, yet notable acts of stewardship among family, church & community members, and friends. Just within our congregation, two women who were both immigrants with meager resources, support, or job opportunities, organized community dinners as fundraisers for the church's capital campaign. One member came to the United States from Uganda as a Victim of Torture. The other member was an Ethiopian servant refugee. Yet they are stewards with gifts of culinary skills and a strong desire to feed souls and help in whatever way that they can. Just yesterday, another Redeemer Lutheran church member who is a single mother with a college student, and who is gifted in music, organized a concert to raise funds for the capital campaign that involved more than 400 people from partnering congregations and the Buffalo community. Still another member has decided to part with valuable possessions she owns, to donate the proceeds to the church for mental, emotional and fundraising purposes. Others, including my husband and me, have found ways utilizing our gifts and talents, to contribute by making leading pledges to the campaign, as well as facilitating leadership activities to help others. The legacy continues...

All of these stories are examples of stewards acting justly, showing love and mercy, and walking humbly with God. There are endless ways for stewardship to happen by connecting through communities, mentoring/modeling, cooking, sewing or baking, through the endless gifts and blessing God has bestowed on all of His beloved children. The church does have a wonderful opportunity to help the members of Christ's body, rethink and find creative and meaningful ways to use their special gifts and talents. In summary, perhaps the words that best describe my understanding of stewardship are captured in additional words from Carliss Moody in his song: "I'm Available to You."

Lord, Now I'm giving back to you,
all the tools you gave to me
My hands, my ears, my voice, my eyes
So you can use me as you please.
I have emptied out my cup,
so that you can fill me up,
Now I'm free,
I just want to be,
more available to You...

Thank you for the time and attention you made available for me to share my experiences, hopes, and dreams for rethinking stewardship. Dreams can come true. Thank You!

Cheryl Chatman


Cheryl Chatman is an Executive Vice President of Concordia University, St. Paul, MN.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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