Is stewardship a dirty word?
Is it a dirty word to you? Do you know what it means? Have you ever heard that word used outside the church?
When I Google the word stewardship, the first link to pop up directs me to Wikipedia, which defines stewardship as: "an ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources."
Wikipedia then goes on to talk about how the word was used historically. That implies it is not a word that is in circulation much these days. The 25 links that follow the Wikipedia link are to church resources.
So I have to ask the question, "Are we living in the ice ages? Do we even know how to talk in a way that is relevant to people?"
Stewardship by any other name
After my Google search, I went to the thesaurus. I thought maybe I could find a synonym that would shed a more contemporary light on this word. But it wasn’t the synonyms to stewardship that spoke to me. It was the antonyms.
Sometimes it is easier to define something by first defining what it is not. The antonyms to stewardship as listed in the online thesaurus are: destruction, neglect, spending, squandering, waste.
OK -- that got my attention! In other words, not paying attention to stewardship is wasteful. And to cease to be good stewards is not just lazy, it is destructive.
When I first entered into ordained ministry, I would get heart palpitations during the season we refer to as "stewardship season." I would fret endlessly about how people would perceive being asked for money in church.
I was scared of the people who would leave on a Sunday morning grumbling, "All the church wants is our money." When the stewardship committee asked me to preach a "good stewardship sermon," I would carefully craft my words so as not to offend anyone.
Destructive, wasteful and neglectful
I’m over that now. Why? Because I have seen evidence in families, churches, businesses and nations that failing to address stewardship is destructive, wasteful and neglectful -- just like the thesaurus says.
We say over and over in our church that stewardship is not just about your money. And that is 100 percent true! Stewardship is about how we care for everything that God has given to us.
It’s how we care for our families, our homes, our bodies and our environment. It’s how we use our God-given talents and how we live as Christians in the workplace. If we embrace this definition of stewardship, then every sermon should be a "good stewardship sermon."
So stewardship is about how we live all of our lives in response to God’s love. It’s not a dirty word and it’s not irrelevant. If anything, it needs a rebirth and the church can lead the way.
God is in this place
All of this is to say -- first of all -- God is doing amazing things in the world and God is doing these amazing things through you. Every time I turn around I see evidence of God’s fingerprints on people’s lives.
Whether you go to (my congregation) or whether you participate in a ministry that is far from this place, I want to invite you to consider that God is begging, calling, pleading with you to join… in changing the world with love.
And yes, love can look like dollar signs. I say that now without heart palpitations because I am convinced that Jesus calls us to be good stewards of all of our resources. To not do so would be -- well -- it would be destructive.
For further reflection, read Matthew 25:14-30. Are you willing to take risks for God?
Editor’s note: This blog was edited from the author’s original posting on October 3, 2011, at I’m into Grace. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Kris Capel’s blog I’m into Grace at Lutheran Blogs.
You might also want to read:
Well done, good and faithful steward
Worship and stewardship: foundations of the life of faith
Discovering a spirit of generosity