As I reflect on stewardship, it occurs to me that what I say today about stewardship is different than what I would have said five years ago. And if someone asks my thoughts on stewardship five years from now, I hope that what I will say then will be different than what I say today. It is true of most things in life that our understanding changes over time: we gain life experience and experience alters our understanding. Certainly this is true of the Christian life. We live, we experience God, we grow. Our knowledge increases, our priorities change, our understanding evolves. In short, we mature.

We often think of spiritual maturity in terms of spiritual practices: a person who is spiritually mature prays daily, fasts regularly, attends Eucharist, and so on. But these acts, as valuable as they are, may be misunderstood as a type of personal maturity or personal discipline. However, true spiritual maturity is growth in a relationship.

Spiritual acts are signs, not of a person’s strong inner will, but of a person’s love for God and for others. I think that the surest way to kill spirituality is to force “spiritual” acts using only one’s will. Don’t misunderstand me: sometimes we need every ounce of willpower we can muster in order to serve at Community Meal, paint the church doors or just to make it to Eucharist on time. We have many competing priorities in our lives, time is limited and demands are many, so there are days when we have to seriously strive to accomplish a spiritual act. But the root, the heart, the source of spiritual maturity and spiritual acts is love: our love for the One who first loved us, and this love reflected in our love for others. This is our relationship, and this is where we grow as we live and experience God’s love in our lives.

Stewardship is part of this relationship. It must be, as my relationship with God must include every aspect of my life. God’s love extends to every area of my life, no matter how mundane, and God desires to be fully involved with all of my life. But stewardship is more than just a part of my relationship with God: stewardship is basic to the relationship.

Stewardship is using one’s resources in a spiritually wise manner in order to express one’s love for God and one’s love for others. Like you, I have many competing priorities in my life, time is limited, and demands are many. Stewardship is sorting among the priorities, using my time, and meeting demands in ways which show God’s love for the world, my love for God and my love for others. Some days the appropriate use of time, treasure or talent requires sacrifice or a strong act of will. At other times my giving springs from immense thanksgiving and extreme joy. But whether it is done with a strong act of will or joyful thanks, I give because God’s love has generated love within me which must be expressed.

Stewardship is also sharing God’s life. All that I have I received from God. My time, my talent and my treasure are gifts from God. They are parts of His creation which He has entrusted to me. As I use these things, I share in God’s life; I am part of God’s giving to the world and to others. I participate in God’s love, God’s grace and God’s life. And that makes me, and my stewardship, part of the Kingdom of God. As I participate in God’s life, as I use resources as spiritual tools, I experience God and the experience causes my relationship to grow. The experience of God increases my understanding of what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of loving, giving and sharing.

copyright 2009 by the author