The basic principles of Christian stewardship – accountability, generosity and the willingness to give back with increase – stem from a spirit of gratitude. People of faith acknowledge God as the giver of all creation. Everything that we have and all that we are, our skills and talents, our possessions, and life itself are gifts from God.
We are all called to believe in stewardship. To live the stewardship life is to trust in God’s love, mercy and providence. A Christian steward acknowledges this in two ways. First, he or she understands that when one’s individual gifts of time, talent and treasure are combined with the gifts of other Christian disciples, the Church and the world are enriched, the good news of the Gospel message is brought to those who have not heard it, and people come to know firsthand the free and generous love of God.
Further, Christian stewards are not afraid to keep less for themselves, realizing that the less “stuff” there is in their lives, the more room there is for God. They recall the sacrifices God continually makes for us, know the difference between needs and wants, and are willing to sacrifice a portion of their wants to meet the needs of others. Those who seek to live their lives as stewards know that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28).
Living our lives as Christian stewards is not easy, nor is our gratitude for God’s blessings meant to lead at any time to complacency, or the acceptance of social and economic conditions, despite how good or bad they are. Rather, a close relationship with Jesus and a desire to live out our lives in imitation of his will ease our stewardship journey and motivate us to seek economic and social justice.
However challenging stewardship may be, each of us takes part in one vocation – to be a disciple of Jesus. It is through our discipleship that our stewardship comes alive. More simply, stewardship is an outgrowth of a true conversion toward Christ. Jesus invites us to share in his love, and we in turn seek to bring his love to others. In this way, stewardship is built upon a close, intimate and personal relationship with Jesus through prayer, and it is this relationship with Jesus that allows us to grow closer to our parish communities through the generous sharing of our gifts.
At the same time, our love of Jesus helps us to understand our responsibilities more clearly. The U.S.Bishops’ 1992 pastoral letter Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response reminds us, “stewards of God’s gifts are not passive beneficiaries.” Christ’s invitation into his love is also an invitation to contribute to his mission of teaching, serving, and healing. We are all called, then, to share in God’s plan for redemption, not only for ourselves but for others. We are also obligated to be good stewards of the Church. We have a personal responsibility to our parish and our local Church, the diocese.
As parishioners, we need to find ways to live out our faith in our parish communities. As Catholics, we give generously – time, money, prayers and service – to our parishes, schools and diocesan communities. Our responsibility is clear: to continue the mission of Jesus, and our way ahead is guided and sustained by his unfailing love.