What Is a Steward?
We are in the midst of Stewardship Season. Each Sunday during worship, we have a Stewardship Moment - an opportunity for one of our members to give testimony about Smith Memorial Church, and the faith, the doubts, the curiosities, the circumstances that drew them here and keep them here.
Behind the issue of stewardship is the primary question: What Is a Steward?
A steward is a trustee, a fiduciary, a manager, a custodian for things not his or her own.
A steward is a manager for the property and affairs of someone else - a person, a family, a community, an institution or - in spiritual matters - an administrator over the things of God: specifically, the faith once given to the prophets and apostles, now entrusted to us. It is ours to grow, invest, and pass along to others around us, and to future generations yet to come.
St. Paul describes it like this, speaking of his own calling and of those with him:
Think of us in this way: as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.
(I Corinthians 3:23-4:1).
Money is only part of it. Maintaining the institution, property, and community of the Church is only part of it. The heart of it is cherishing, enhancing, and passing along the legacy of faith entrusted to our care.
Like any steward, we are not the “owners” or “proprietors” of the Church and its faith. The faith is not “ours” to create, tamper with, adulterate, or despoil. Our trusteeship over it is only to receive it, live it, magnify it, and spread it around.
Christian faith is not a strictly “spiritual” affair. Christian faith is a carnal religion - just as Christ is God incarnate - enfleshed. So also Christian faith is enfleshed into the reality of this world. That’s where the money comes in. We cannot gather without a place to gather. We cannot worship without a place to worship. We cannot reach others without a place to reach from.
The earliest Christian communities were house churches, which was fine - until they grew to the point that peoples’ homes could no longer contain them.
Any responsible steward, trustee, fiduciary, manager, or custodian does not commingle his own monies or property with that held in trust for another. So it is with the portion we set aside as the Lord’s. The first step in mindful financial stewardship is to establish a set-aside bank account for your giving, separate from what you use for everything else.
For most people, it is almost impossible to begin giving a full tithe if you have never given a tithe before. It would be like asking an infant taking its first steps to run a 100 yard dash. Once you establish your set-aside account, start with depositing the cost of a slice of pizza once a week, and work up from there. The Lord will bless you for putting him first, for however small a sum.
- Pastor Duke