The Office of Stewardship
Next let’s take a look at two areas of life where we can put the values and habits of a Christian Steward to work. The choices we make in these two areas are barometers of our stewardship attitudes overall. They give us clarity about what we believe and what is important to us because they are limited resources. These two areas are:
How Do I Spend My Money?
How Do I Spend My Time?
Our values are clarified when resources are limited. When resources are limited, we are forced to make choices and our choices reveal to us what is most important to us. We feel the limitation of time more than anything else in our culture. Therefore, it is a great barometer for us.
Looking closely at how we spend our time helps us know what we value and helps us choose to “practice what we preach” about Stewardship. Time is a great place to begin to show with our actions that we truly receive gratefully from God and give back to him with increase.
But being a good steward of time means first of all recognizing that we should be receiving the time we have as a gift. Time is not something to take for granted or to assume we are owed.
Stewards make a conscious decision to order this gift first to spending time each day in prayer (giving back to God the best of this gift He has given us) and then making prayerful decisions about how to order the rest of our time in a way that gives Him glory.
Here are some good resources that can help you get started:
- “Escaping the Frantic Pace of American Life” – was presented at the 2016 Summit. (a 30-minute audio presentation with slides below)
- For a copy of the Time Inventory Worksheet used in this presentation, click here.
- In the short video below (8 minute) titled “Spontaneity And God’s Will” from Ascension Presents, Fr. Mike Schmitz speaks of the value in ordering our time and in being intentional about how we choose to spend the gift of time.
“Where you put your time, you put your life, and where you put your life, you put your love.” — Clayton Barbeau
The question is, then, when you look at where you put your time, what does it tell you about who or what you love most?
Fr. Mike Schmitz says that it is our calendars and our checkbooks that tell the story of what is most important to us. The things we value the most are where we put these two scarce resources. A person who has embraced stewardship spends his/her money differently than one who has not. (“Beyond Belief”)
A Christian steward is generous in all ways and money is no different. But how do I know if I am being generous with my money?
- The Church has often held up tithing as a way to share our money generously. There are many references in the Old Testament to tithing, which means, “a tenth” (see Genesis 14, Leviticus 23 30-33, Deuteronomy 12:17. 14:22-29, Numbers 18:21-24). Interestingly, the practice of tithing, whether as a sacrifice in honor of God or as a tax in payment to a ruler, was common among the ancient people of Greece, Rome, Lybia, Arabia, Babylon, and Persia. Some archaeologists suggest that the portion one-tenth constituted the tithe because the number ten was the basis for the numerical system and thereby signified totality. Since God governed totality, any blessing received from it was a gift of God and an appropriate act of thanksgiving one-tenth-ought to be returned to God.” (Fr. William Saunders, Arlington Catholic Herald, 9/2017)
- Today, the Church does not ask us to tithe. Rather, in Bishop Gruss’ words, we should give intentionally and sacrificially. However, thinking about 10% can be a great way to practically challenge ourselves to give intentionally and sacrificially. It is telling to know that today, on average, Christians give only 2.5% of their income to churches. For incomes above $75,000, the number goes down to 1%. During the Great Depression, on the other hand, average giving was 3.3%*. In the 1930s, people had less and they gave more. This should give us pause. For most people, working up to a 10% tithe would be a great leap forward in generosity.
(*Nonprofit Source, 2018 accessed at: https://pushpay.com/blog/church-giving-statistics/)
- Figuring out what percentage of your income you give away is easy, if you can easily add up what you give away. You simply divide your charitable giving by your income. If you gave away $5000 last year and you made $100,000, you are giving away 5% of your income. However, many of us don’t track our spending. If that is your reality, you might have to first commit to tracking how you spend your money. Good stewards are intentional, so this, too, is part of learning how to live out stewardship. The good news is many banks now offer this as part of their online banking. They make it easy!! Or, if you are really committed to learning how to track and manage your money, check out a Money Matters course by Dave Ramsey.
Here is a challenging question to ask yourself:
In the past week, month, year have I been unable to buy something I wanted because I gave too much money away?
If the answer is yes, you practice sacrificial giving of your money. If the answer is no, you give out of your excess.
Looking at what percentage of our income we give to others and comparing it to 10% is a good place to start thinking about what it means to give sacrificially. It should be made clear, though, that for some, giving away 10% of our income is not realistic because the 90% left over would not cover basic needs. But for most of us, if we gave away 10% of our money, the 90% left over would more than cover our needs and so 10% might be a good goal to work up to. In addition, for many in the United States, sacrificial giving may be more than 10% because we have so much that we hardly miss the 10%.
Another Challenging Question:
Do you think of yourself as Rich? Probably not. Click below to find out just how your income compares with those around the globe:
Jesus says in Luke 21:1-4: “When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, ‘I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.’” He asks us to give not out of our excess, but to give to him first and out of our needs. As one writer put it, “it is better to be a tither than a tipper”.
The Church has often called this, “giving of your first fruits” from the ancient practice of the Hebrew people of the Old Testament to give God the first and best of their harvest.
A final question:
Is your charity planned and intentional? Do you put the same kind of importance on giving as you do on your mortgage payment?
If the answer is yes, you are giving of your “first fruits.” If the answer is no, you are not. In fact, in all of our financial transactions, the Christian steward strives to be intentional.
Proverbs 30:8b-9 advises:
“…give me neither poverty nor riches;
provide me only with the food I need;
Lest, being full, I deny you,
saying, “Who is the Lord?”
Or, being in want, I steal,
and profane the name of my God”
Christian stewards are detached from wealth. It neither causes them to be selfish (or to steal as the Proverb says), nor does it take the place of God (thinking themselves self-sufficient – who is the Lord?) They arrive at this sense of detachment both by giving sacrificially and by giving intentionally. They see their money, not as theirs, but as God’s. They see it as a means for giving Him honor and praise as well as a means for loving their neighbor in a concrete way.
We end this module with the thoughts of three stewards who share how these ideas have taken form in their own lives:
Rich and Mary Helen have come to see how living as a steward, both with time and money, has brought them great joy.
“Everything Belongs to God: How to Be a Steward” by Fr. Mike Schmitz. In his quick and whimsical way, Fr. Mike shares his take on being a steward.
“The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2404
“Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”
(St. John Chrysostom, CCC2446)
Module 4 — Fruits of Stewardship
Living this Catholic Way of Life
Looking to deepen your practice of one of the four Stewardship Pillars? Click the image of the one below to find the best of our blogs and resources for each pillar.
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