Posted by Mark Beckwith on October 12, 2010
Although Christian stewardship is a year-round enterprise, it peaks in intensity at this time of year. Letters are written, witnesses are given, visits are (sometimes) undertaken – and pledges are solicited. Stewardship is a spiritual discipline, but as the end of the year looms and next year’s budget is prepared, there is a tendency to shift the message from our need to give to the church’s need to receive. Which is understandable. At every level of life today, there is a lot of anxiety today about money. But stewardship isn’t about money. It is about our need to give. When I was newly ordained, I pledged to the church what I could afford. I knew the church needed money, but so did I. And since I didn’t think I had much, I didn’t give much. Then I learned about proportionate giving, which involved figuring out how much you give away in proportion to what you earn. It required setting aside some time to think this through, and engaging in the rudiments of calculation. And committing to the idea that this is holy work. It was my wife Marilyn who recommended that we add up our combined incomes and then decide on a percentage that we would give away. It was somewhat embarrassing to see how little we had been giving. When we established a percentage and pledged that percentage, our giving tripled. When we reached a tithe a few years later, our giving tripled again. While this process had the concrete effect of giving more money away, the spiritual dynamics of it all introduced me to a level of gratitude I had never known before. When my giving was based on what I thought I could afford, I gave with an undercurrent of resentment. When I gave from a percentage of what I had, I found that my giving was in fact a gift. I wanted to give. And I discovered that I needed to give in order to fully appreciate the corresponding gift of joy. Stewardship is what we do with what we have – all of the time. At this peak stewardship time of the year, the practice of Christian stewardship presents us with an opportunity to experience deeper spiritual levels of gratitude and joy by living into our need to give.