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Stewardship's Null Curriculum

We conclude our Stewardship this Lent series today with a post from Rolf Jacobson, professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary. His post reminds me of a phrase from the education world. The “null curriculum” is sort of the shadow curriculum for teachers (or preachers!). If the regular curriculum is what we teach, the null curriculum is what students learn by what we don’t teach, since what we neglect or avoid also tells a story. Jacobson’s post pushes us to consider the “null curriculum” of stewardship. What is the church teaching about stewardship by, well, not teaching about stewardship?

I hope you have found our Stewardship this Lent reflection series helpful for your Lenten journey. Many blessings on your Holy Week to come.

Yours truly,

Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders 

Stewardship's Null Curriculum

Rolf Jacobson

God cares at least as much about the money you don’t give away to charity as God does about the money that you do.

God doesn’t just care about the 10% (or 5% or 2%) of the money that you give to God. God does care about the money you share with God, of course. But God also cares at least as much about what you do with the 90% (or 95% or 98%) of the money that you save and spend as God cares about the money you share.

But the church has trained people to think that God only cares about the money that we give away -- especially the money that we’ve given to the church.

By emphasizing “the tithe” and giving “off the top” -- which are noble ideas -- we’ve accidentally taught people that God only cares about what we give away. You know, 10% belongs to God; the rest belongs to you. Give that 10% to the church, which will use it for God’s purposes. The other 90%? Do whatever you want with it.

And we’ve done the same thing when it comes to the stewardship of our lives and our time. We’ve told people: “Your time and talents are valuable when you volunteer at church. See, we call you up front and pray for you when you are installed on the church council, or as a Sunday School teacher, or are sent off on a trip with the youth.”

Some congregations still use “Time and Talent” surveys -- which you’ll notice are about the options for your time and energy spent involved at church.

We should be telling people something like this: Because we belong to God, everything about us belongs to God: our selves, our bodies, our families, our time, our relationships -- even our possessions. In light of that, the question we ought to be asking ourselves is: how do people who belong to God regard their belongings?

Or even better, we should be asking people, “What is God up to in your spending and saving? Where is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the dollars that pass virtually through the chip reader when you buy groceries, clothes, gas, and so on? What’s God up to far across the ocean when you buy a piece of clothing manufactured in China?”

We could be wondering with people, “What is God up to in my investing? Where is God stirring when I put my money in the stock market?” 

Or, “What is God up to when I’m tipping my hair stylist, or the single-mother waitress who hustles tables all day, or the Uber driver who isn’t supposed to accept tips?”

It isn’t just the widow’s mite that God cares about. Your entire family budget says something about your faith in Christ. Your entire stock portfolio may be something through which God is up to good work in the world.

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
The Arc of Stewardship in the Age of Abundance and Debt by Israel Galindo
Stewardship in the Valley of Dry Bones by Benjamin Stewart

More Information

Dr. Rolf A. Jacobson serves as Professor of Old Testament and The Alvin N. Rogness Chair of Scripture, Theology, and Ministry at Luther Seminary. 

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.

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

"Mastercard Credit card purchase Buying" image by Informedmag. Creative Commons Licensing via Flickr.

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