Stewardship. God has given us memory, reason, and skill for the common good. If we would be faithful stewards of these gifts, skills, and resources we will mirror the incredible generosity of our God toward us as we engage the world around us.
In the book of Deuteronomy God states an expectation for the people of God, “If there is among you any in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord God is giving you, . . . open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need whatever it may be.” This expectation assumes awareness not only of our own needs, but also to the needs of others who, by God’s design, belong to us.
God has given us a world and a land in which to live. He has given us abundant resources not for our possession (because they all belong to God and are on loan to us), but in order that through our stewardship, “the rich may not have too much and the poor may have enough,” as St. Paul says. If we embrace the premise, that “we have Christ and possess nothing,” then it becomes easier to release resources for God’s purposes.
God gave freely to us. The skills, gifts and the position we hold in life have been granted us by the same self-giving God who loves to lavish good gifts on his children. In Philippians, Paul says, “my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.” The Psalmist says, “he (God) owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine.” With such resources in God’s control, it is not surprising that generations of Christians have found that they can not out give God.
In Scripture, generosity is not limited to the distribution of our wealth but also encompasses our engagement with the creation and our fellow creatures. Does creation exist for my benefit alone or has God created it to be enjoyed by all his children in every generation? If the latter, this shapes how Christians must respond to our “fragile earth our island home.”
We who love God are coming to understand that our true wealth is found in our relationship to God, a relationship that never perishes or rusts or becomes obsolete. Paul says, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his ways! . . . For from him and through him and in him are all things.” Paul’s great treasure was in knowing Christ. He spends all his resources (not merely the material resources of which he has little, but all his skill wisdom and energy) to know God and to make God known. We receive the same invitation, to spend our lives for God and God’s people.
Our Generosity of life is demonstrated through lives of gratefulness and joy in God’s faithfulness. Paul in Philippians gives us some instruction on this matter. “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice.” In this, Paul invites us to see God’s hand at work in our lives from the very beginning.
As generous servants of Christ we learn to “Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who though in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be held on to, but emptied himself taking upon himself the form of a servant.” Paul understood that satisfying and lasting joy was found in setting aside all rights, prerogatives, and entitlements in order that he might be free to love the world to Christ.
God’s generosity extends to God’s creatures everywhere. In Christ we are learning this same openness and grace. As we affirm in our Baptismal Covenant we will “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.” We will strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being. We will live Paul’s advice, “Whatsoever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing to God, and commendable, think on these things.” This discipline of generosity lived in faithful stewardship to God will transform the world around us one person at a time.
May the generosity which has defined Christ’s church in generations past deepen in us. May we be more intentional in the ways that we mirror Christ’s generosity.
The Rev. Dr. Peter B. Stube, Interim Rector
Author’s note: From time to time I write theological reflection essays. Scripture is at the center of my reflection. I attempt to hear what the Scripture said to the first reader’listener and then to suggest how it speaks to us in the current moment. Since “discerning the spirits” is the work of a faith community, I offer these essays to the St. Matthew’s quite confident that you will not agree with everything I say, but hoping that the essay may stir lively conversation that allows us to discern together what the Spirit is saying to us all.