By Rev. Raymond Hodgson
I mean it. If you’re involved in your parish’s stewardship campaign, I want you to stop right now.
Put aside the announcement for the bulletin, the graphs and charts, the thermometer that you colour in each week, or whatever else it is that you’re using. Because that’s all fundraising, not stewardship, and we really need to stop confusing the two.
Jesus and his listeners knew stewards: it was the steward who did most of the hiring and firing in Galilee. Ordinary people rarely encountered the owner in person. That’s why Jesus featured stewards in so many of his parables and other teachings. Good stewards were trusted servants, sometimes even slaves, who were given the responsibility for using what belonged to their masters in the manner in which the owners wanted it used. Stewards who were caught using the owner’s property for their own benefit were removed from their position.
Think about that for a second: stewards were not owners but had responsibility to use the land and money of the owner as the owner wanted. It is this idea – control and responsibility but not ownership – that sets apart Christian stewardship from the teachings of our society. The world is constantly telling us that our worth is based on our ability to buy, consume, and own. Christianity challenges us to think about our relationship with land and money in a different way – are we owners or stewards of what God has created?
The problem then becomes one of using what God has trusted us with in the way in which God wants it used. Fortunately God has given us direction through the teachings and example of Jesus, and continues to guide us through the Holy Spirit, or else we’d be completely lost. But by acknowledging the ownership of God, following in the footsteps of Jesus, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit we can become not just stewards, but good stewards.
We feed the hungry because God wants them fed. We welcome the refugee because God wants them welcomed. We visit the sick because God wants them visited. We share the Good News because God wants it to be shared. The list goes on. We provide for physical space, heat, and light because they support these activities. And we use the abundance that God has entrusted to us to accomplish all these things. Because God wants them done.
You see, at the end of the day, it is impossible to “do” stewardship in the way we’ve often tried. It would be like we were only pretending that God was the Creator, pretending that Jesus was our Master, and pretending that the Holy Spirit continues to be our Guide. We can “be” good stewards only by truly recognizing the sovereignty of God. And only that way.
Rev. Raymond Hodgson is the rector of the Church of Saint Bartholomew, Sarnia and a member of Diocesan Stewardship Committee