“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s.” Most of us have little trouble rendering onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. Every year, quite a while before the deadline of April 15, we sit down and struggle with form 1040. In my instance, it usually winds up being a packet about 3 inches thick. Through the variety of computations and attached schedules we generally come to an understanding of exactly how many dollars and cents we need, under penalty of law, to render unto Caesar. Whether we feel cheerful or resentful doesn’t matter. We still need to send it. Some of us have been rendered enough and might be getting a refund; others of us are invited to send along a check to complete our being rendered. In some happier instances we look forward to a refund. That means of course that we’ve overpaid during the course of the year.
When it comes to the matter of stewardship, it’s all different. There is no schedule 1040. There is no one demanding particularly that we give. There’s no schedule to be filed to tell us how we are to give, or under what circumstances we give. It’s a matter between what’s in our heart and what we know is right in proportion to what we know about our relationship with God. Far from being a compulsory burden, stewardship is supposed to be an occasion of joy. It is not an act based on compulsion, but an act that is based upon our loving response to the tender mercies which we have encountered from Almighty God. The heart of stewardship stems from an awareness of the blessings that we have received during the year and during years past throughout our lifetimes.
The very heart of stewardship rests on the notion that we are aware that we have received blessings from Almighty God, and that we are thankful and filled with gratitude for the blessings which we have received. We are asked to count our blessings and to approach the altar with hearts that are filled with thankfulness.
Now, being human, it is our tendency often to base our system response of stewardship on what we see as the needs of the church. We all know costs go up in terms of price. Most of us know that from running our homes each year. We also know how things go up in the life of our parish. Utilities, insurances of various sorts, Cost of living, (2% this year) necessary but routine repairs. We all know none of it goes down. We know that if our stewardship is strictly parish-needs based that for Saint Paul’s to
But ultimately the grounding of stewardship rests on the ways that we are aware that we have been and how we are blessed. That’s the thing that our theme for the year is supposed to remind us. It is not me and it is not you that have gotten for ourselves all that we have and all that we enjoy. Rather it is that all that we are and all that we have comes from God. The real challenge of those words of Deuteronomy “Be careful lest you may say to yourself, “my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember to give your thank offering to the Lord your God.” The real challenge is don’t forget to be thankful, don’t forget to be grateful. Remember to show your gratitude to the Lord your God and offer your gift with thanksgiving.