What if Stewardship Was Our Purpose?
By Ken Sloane
The word “stewardship” has almost become impolite to say in some company. Many seem to consider it a bad pill that you must swallow once a year during annual campaign time, then put away on the shelf. No matter how much the preacher goes on about it, or how many fancy letters we send, it’s just about getting the pledge cards back and hoping to cover the budget. Some would say “a necessary evil” and think they were being gracious.
What about if it were more than that?
Lovett Weems and Ann Michel of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership remind us in their wonderful book Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance, about the foundations of stewardship:
“God’s purpose in calling us to lives of faithful stewardship and generosity isn’t merely to sustain the church. In fact, it’s the other way around. The continued existence of the church is essential to sustain the powerful, transformative message of our faith regarding how we are to live in relation to money and possessions.” (“Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance,” p.3)
If we accept what Weems and Michel say — that the church’s main purpose is to sustain and share the message of how we should live in relation to money and possessions — then we would have to accept that as a key part of our mission. To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is to help others discover how to live with money and possessions in a way that sees God as the source of all gifts. Our use of money and possessions should reflect God’s love and compassion. Faithful stewardship and generosity are not additions to our definition of discipleship, but the main point of it. Again, Weems and Michel affirm this:
“A biblical understanding of stewardship begins with the simple affirmation that everything belongs to God. As the Psalmist so eloquently wrote, ‘The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it; for God has founded it on the seas and established it in the rivers.’ (Psalm 24:1-2). To understand everything belongs to God means we don’t own anything, even ourselves. Whatever we have or control comes to us through the grace of God. We are to hold it in trust and use it for God’s purpose and glory.” (“Generosity, Stewardship, and Abundance,” p. 65)
Most of us have heard the riddle, “What if The Hokey Pokey really is what it’s all about?”
What if stewardship really is what it’s all about?
Ken Sloane is the Director of Stewardship & Generosity for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.