I don’t know about you, but Lent often calls me to assess where I’ve been. Not where in a geographical sense, but where in terms of my relationship with God, my care for neighbors, and my spiritual practices. Today’s post by Columbia Theological Seminary’s Israel Galindo draws upon the beloved Psalm 23. Galindo considers a stewardship journey from childhood to life’s final chapter. The psalmist calls us to a new sense of provision -- for all our days.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
The Arc of Stewardship in an Age of Abundance and Debt
Perhaps one of the most comforting lines in the much-loved Psalm 23 is its assertive opening, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." In this paradoxical age of abundance and debt, is that an assertion of faith, or wishful thinking? The answer, I suppose, may depend less on one's personal theological assertions and more on one's personal financial statement.
The response to Christian stewardship is not a static thing. Like the seasons of the Christian year, and the arc of the Christian journey in life, what constitutes an appropriate response to Christian stewardship has its own seasons. As young children we respond by practicing self-control and obedience, saving that shiny quarter we receive from our parent to put in the Sunday offering plate. In that act we learn to give to God, and the imagined less fortunate, in participation with our faith community.
As older children we may learn to give a portion of our allowance to the Church. Or, we may engage in creative fundraising enterprises to raise money for a cause if we are moved to respond to the misfortune of others.
As teenagers we feel at a loss over how to be Christian stewards. We become victims of our culture's incessant message of material consumerism. Adolescent egocentricity, the lust for faddish things, and disposable income makes for quite a spiritual challenge.
As young adults we enter a season of accumulation. We acquire education, "stuff," fashionable clothes, new and different friends, networks, and, we hope, marketable skills that will ensure a comfortable living. Regrettably, not many of us learn yet the difference between making a good living and making a good life.
As middle-aged adults we enter the season of generativity. We begin to learn how to give our stuff away. We strive to de-clutter our lives, we clean out the closets and put on yard sales. We strive to simplify our lives having learned that as it turns out, the stuff we own, owns us. In the tension of the limitation of means, we may learn to invest in the next generations, planting trees we will never see to full growth, but upon which our children and our children's children will swing or enjoy their fruit. And that is meaningful and satisfying in ways we never knew before.
In the twilight of our years, we learn to give away our lives. We must, for those who do not experience the twilight of their days as being taken away, rather than gift.
God can shepherd us though these seasons. We live in a paradoxical age of abundance and want, of wealth and debt. This is a challenge for modern-day pastoral shepherds. How does one address the challenge of Christian stewardship in such an age?
I fear, generally speaking, the answer is "poorly." Stewardship sermons are received by believers in the pews many of whom are struggling with credit card debt. The Lord is our Shepherd who provides all we need, but we seem to all want more.
The hope of Lent is that the psalmist's words of God's provision, and our corporate and personal penitence, can indeed be an assertion of faith, and not wishful thinking.
Check out the rest of the Stewardship this Lent series:
Stewardship This Lent by Adam J. Copeland
Water of Life by Cameron B .R. Howard
Stewardship in the Valley of Dry Bones by Benjamin Stewart
Stewardship’s Null Curriculum by Rolf Jacobson
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean and Director of Online Education at the Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur GA.
Generosity NOW Conference: The Ecumencial Stewardship Center's Generosity NOW: Stewardship Fusion 2 Conference will take place April 25-27, 2017 in Washington DC. Laypersons, pastors, and judicatory and denominational staff who attend Generosity NOW increase their knowledge about spiritual principles and best practices relating to faithful stewardship and generous giving through plenary sessions, workshops, and worship.