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Monday, March 27, 2006

Stewardship as Grace

Grace is the constant outpouring of God's unconditional love. Stewardship is to be a source of grace in our lives because it constantly reminds us and challenges us. It reminds us that God never stops giving: everything we have, all that we are, even our very justification comes not from our own works, our own goodness, or our own merits, but rather everything we have comes from God as a free gift.

The Catechism says this: “Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life.” It is in this context that we should look upon the concept of Christian Stewardship, not as a “gimmick” to get people to do more and give more, but as a means of more fully participating in the life of God.

But just as in other forms that God's Grace takes on, the grace offered to us through Christian Stewardship requires our free response to the free gift offered. God has placed in each of us a longing for truth and goodness that only He can satisfy, and that longing is filled through the free grace given us in various areas of our lives. This longing is sometimes referred to as the “God-shaped hole” in our lives.

The grace of Christian Stewardship is aimed square and true at the heart of the “God-shaped hole” in many of our lives. How often do we – such modern, sophisticated, and self-sufficient people – find ourselves worried, distressed, or overcome by problems of finances, priorities, time, and ability? The grace of stewardship is offered to counteract these “modern” concerns, and yet it isn't forced upon us in some legalistic manner. It is offered to us freely, requiring only our free consent to flow in our lives.

Stewardship as a grace challenges us to let go of our false notions that we are somehow in control of our own lives, our skills, our talents, our material possessions, even our health. Stewardship is an attitude of recognition of our total dependence on God, and an acknowledgment that we are only caretakers of what belongs to God. All of God's gifts are good, and as caretakers of His gifts, we are called to use them responsibly, use them for His greater glory, and share them generously with others. And since God never stops giving, our opportunity – our responsibility – to reciprocate by giving back to God and by sharing with others never ends. This is why we are to offer back to God our time, our talents, and our treasure.

How does stewardship become a grace? It helps us develop a lifestyle that acknowledges God's Divinity and Sovereignty. It helps us reduce undue anxiety over our finances, our material possessions, and our circumstances. It helps us develop a lifestyle of sharing which allows us to participate in the extension of God's Grace to others. It allows us to face the truth that what we are – and what we have – is not ours, but belongs completely to God. It attacks our sinful pride at its source, and replaces that pride with gratitude and thankfulness toward God.

Stewardship is not a gimmick or program. It is a way of life. It is our free consent to the ordering of our lives which God has instituted for our conversion.


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