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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Stewardship Part Two

This is the second part of my series of articles on Stewardship. Reading part one, is not mandatory, but it does seem to be the polite thing to do...


******* Giving Back to the Giver *********

In the last Voices, I wrote that a Catholic understanding of stewardship is, at its core, a call to conversion in areas of our lives that can easily become subtle and sly roadblocks to developing a deeper spiritual life. In other words, the THREE T’s of Stewardship (Talent, Treasure, and Time) are concepts specifically targeted to address what I would label the THREE P’s: Pride, Possessions, and our Personal freedom.

None of the THREE P’s are bad in-and-of themselves. There is a natural pride that comes from using and utilizing the talents God has given to His Glory. Our possessions have been given to us to be useful and beneficial aids in our earthly life, and having those things to share with our families and others is a blessing. Our freedom is a God-given gift meant to be treasured.

However, because the THREE P’s have positive aspects, it is easy to be deceived into forgetting the Source of those gifts. We can quickly learn to rely on the gifts rather than the Giver. These gifts become – to our perception – our own abilities, our own wealth, and our own freedom, and we begin to rely on our limited resources in lieu of relying on the unlimited nature of God. In short, we become too “self” oriented: self-sufficient, self-centered, and selfish.

It is easy to become convinced that we can – and even that we should – rely on our own efforts; a proposition that often ends in disaster as our personal inadequacies surface to remind us of our reliance on God. Man was created with a dependence on God in both the spiritual and temporal (physical) areas of our lives, but the more we are blessed with physical gifts, the harder it is to remember that these “things” are not of our own creation.

In an effort to keep our gifts in a proper perspective, God calls us to give freely of the things we have been given. By returning portions of our gifts to the Giver, we recognize God as the Origin of all we’ve been given, and we honor Him. Giving is an act of worship, and a conscious cooperation with the work of the Church. Our giving should be guided by four principles:

1) Give back to God, in gratitude, a portion of everything we have been blessed with: monetary gifts, time, and talents should all be given to support and further the work of the Universal Church.

2) Give in a way that properly honors God as first in our lives: give first, not just a portion of “what is left” at the end of the month.

3) Give in a manner that is sacrificial, not just what we can easily do without. A gift easily parted with is not as precious as one which will be missed.

4) Give to a point where the Biblical concept of a tithe is the minimal baseline of the time, talent, and monetary resources which you share with others. If that is not yet the reality in our lives, we are called to consider ways to gradually increase our giving until it is a reality.

When we return our gifts to God, we are reminded of our dependence on Him. The act of giving is a physical manifestation of our desire to love, serve, submit to, and honor the One who has blessed us so richly.


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