Stewardship: co-partnership with God

And is it not that the accuser is always at the elbow? The role of Satan probably comes as a surprise to those of us who have only the occasional brush with the book Job.  That is because Satan’s role in the book is more like that of the prosecuting attorney. “You think your servant Job is so good,” leers Satan to God, “but that is only because his life has been soft. He’s been too blessed. Afflict him but a little, and he will curse God just like everyone else.”

Even Mrs. Job offers this advice from the outset. “(Why) Do you persist in your integrity? Curse God and die.”

Although the book follows with some thirty-eight chapters of poetry, obtuse for most to understand, and inaccessible for many, if not most, yet there is something timeless about the book Job. To our impoverishment, it is generally relegated as a reading at funerals, when it is followed by a homily the gist of which is “life ain’t a beach, and then you die.” Yet the book prompts our reflection on many timeless themes such as the transitory (fleeting) nature of life. And it prompts our reflection on the meaning of stewardship—that’s to say how easily we forget that all things come from God. How quickly we forget that He wants us to give back to him some of those blessings that we’ve received from his gracious hand.

One positive yet overlooked aspect of stewardship is that the necessity of stewardship for the church places each giver in an exalted position. That is because God needs our generosity in a very real way.

I know that mostly we are given to think that we need God a whole lot more than He needs us. But consider this well: Your generosity helps to provide the place where people come thrice each weekend to hear the Gospel and to receive the grace of God. Your generosity provides for the fact that it is warmer than the outside ambient temperature in January. Your generosity makes it possible for your rector to spend an afternoon visiting the sick. Your generosity makes it possible for the many outreach ministries of Saint Paul’s. Now, many of those we can celebrate and talk about: the Thrift Shop, outreach to the Wellsboro Food Pantry, the Women’s Shelter, Relay for Life, to name but a few.

There are other aspects of ministry that your generosity through stewardship helps to provide. Some of these frankly I cannot write about or describe very much. That’s because those involve circumstances of a privileged nature. Late night calls to the hospital which happen more frequently than you think. A check from the discretionary fund offered here and there—sometimes to help with heat or a utility bill, sometimes to buy groceries for a hungry family, or occasionally to help with a car repair bill. Time spent listening in care and concern for those suffering from the cheerless, tragic dimensions of life. The kinds of things one hears being a priest that represent the glimpses into human souls and the cure of souls. Those things carried about like a cross that go unshared with even one’s mother or one’s spouse. Those things that make a great difference in human lives that all take place quite apart from our shared worship on Sunday. Those things that remain the reason that we gather at the altar—not because we’re told we should, but because the tragic dimensions of life make it that we must.

Your generosity of stewardship makes all this possible. And the truth is that God does need you and your gift to do his work in the world. So, this year, as we make our pledges, let us do so mindful that the Lord does love a cheerful giver, and in part why He loves a cheerful giver is because the cheerful, generous giver makes it possible for Him to do His work in the world through us.

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About canongreg

I have been Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Wellsboro, PA since 1994.
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