To give or not to give
The Rector writes: I was thinking of stewardship last week and what that means for the church and to those Christians who are called upon to give (all of us, incidentally) when I received this note on the subject from a colleague.
I think Stewardship is one of, if not the, most challenging element of the Christian path. What makes it particularly challenging I think is that it is quite unlike anything else in our lives. I'm thinking here especially of financial stewardship - which is only one kind of stewardship, though admittedly a very important one.
When it comes to money we're used to things having price tags on them. There aren't price tags in the church. It's not $10 for a sermon, $20 to attend a Bible study course, $35 to receive the Eucharist, or $50 to get a pastoral visit in the hospital. Stewardship isn't an annual membership fee for being a part of this community.
Conversely, sometimes people bring fundraising ideas from the non-profit sector to stewardship. While this view is definitely closer than a market-based mentality, Christian stewardship isn't fundraising either. We do of course have to raise funds and God knows the church isn't a profit-making enterprise. These are often well-intentioned notions, but I do think we need to make clear what Christian Stewardship is and isn't.
What's different is that Christian stewardship is about growing in discipleship. The word disciple means a student. Christian discipleship is being a student on the path of The Master Teacher Christ. And stewardship is one part of our learning - it's one part of our spiritual curriculum if you like. Stewardship is that part of our spiritual learning where we learn to become like God, who is generous.
And that means we actually have to have conversations about money, an arena as intimate as any in life. I believe the greatest taboo left in our society is talking about money (along with death I would say). I think the teaching of Jesus suggests we should seek to break this taboo.
In that light, I want to share a personal story. I used to be a very careful when it came to money. I grew up in a very generous and comfortable middle - class family so there's no earthly reason I should have been so. A few years back I started the practice of tithing - that means, I gave a sacrificial portion of my income away first and then created my budget based on what I had left after the tithe. There was definitely cost involved but overall what I experienced was a much greater sense of generosity in my life. I became less anxiety-filled when it came to this domain of life. The discipline of tithing brought me greater freedom. Last year, as a Lenten discipline, to further counteract my careful/mean tendencies, I picked up the bill (within reason) whenever I was out with folks at a restaurant. It meant cutting back on a whole number of other things in my life, but on the plus side, I ended up having a great many more wonderful experiences spending time with folks. I also got to experience the spontaneous, sincere expression of joy and thanks on the faces of friends and colleagues. It's just a small example but that practice would never have occurred to me if I hadn't been making giving a part of my life.
I encourage all of us, in whatever way we can, to grow in our stewardship with the help of God's grace.
Christ Church Cathedral
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