“Gratitude in response to Grace makes us gracious.” — The Rt. Rev. David Reed
The Rt. Rev. David Reed, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of West Texas, preached at Grace Church last Sunday. He reminded us that stewardship is not just about money. Stewardship involves everything we do because in its essence, stewardship is simply how we respond to God.
It’s not that we give as stewards (though we do). It’s that we live as stewards. Using all that God has placed before us, we live out our response to God’s goodness by giving back.
We don’t give because we have to, or we should, or so God will like us better. Believe me, God likes us plenty. We give in thanksgiving for what God has already given us. And it’s not just about money. Never has been. Stewardship includes money, but it is so much more than just dollars and cents. We respond to God’s grace with our time, our skills, our experience, our gifts, our relational ability, our energy and our resources.
The question for us as stewards of God’s Grace is not how much money should I give to the Church. The question is how do I live in response to God’s Grace?
God has given me a wife and children, an income and a home, skills in writing and speaking, a love of football and learning, the challenge of church planting and a freedom from sin I never thought I would live to see. How do I give back to God from all that God has given me? How could I?
Relationally, I give back to God through the love, time and attention I give to the people closest to me. I’m not a perfect husband, father or friend, by any means. But how do I love those God has placed in my life? I can view them either as gift or burden, as obligation or opportunity. When I wake up at 6:00 am to stand in the rain with my daughter at the bus stop, do I curse the early morning hour or give thanks that my daughter still wants to hold my hand? When I am intentionally thankful for those in my life, I am able to see past the daily struggles and discomfort. Thank you, God, for my wife who sometimes drives me crazy. She is my partner and my best friend. Thank you, God, for my children. They are the most difficult blessings in my life.
I give back to God from the resources He has given me when I share those resources with others. In our family, we do this in three main ways. First, we give money to our Church. There is no clearer or simpler way to thank God than to lower the balance in your checking account. Second, we open our home to our Church, our family and our friends. Even though I am an introvert by nature, my wife has taught me the value of the gift of hospitality. Nobody sees us clean the house, but we usually have a clean home to welcome people into. That is a gift we give. Third, we strive to live generously. Not extravagantly, but generously. We always tip 20%. If the PTA asks for a donation of $10-20, we give $20. When kids come to the door selling cookies, we always buy some. This is not something to brag about, it’s simply a practice of generosity.
I give back my love of words by writing and speaking. I give back my love of football by coaching my son’s team. I give back my love of learning by teaching. I give back the gift of my priesthood by pouring all that I am into church planting. I give back the Grace I have received by sharing Grace with others.
God tells us we are forgiven as we forgive others (see Lord’s Prayer, Mt 6:12 or Lk 11:4). Yet I have found it is only in being forgiven that I am able to forgive others. The forgiveness God gives me, I can give to others. The mercy God shows me, I can show to others. The love God pours over me, I can pour into others. God does not call us into relationship with Him merely for our own sake. God blesses us that we might be a blessing to those He places on our path. This is how we give back. This is stewardship.