Many people often think of stewardship as ways to help out their local parish community. However, stewardship is not just limited in being a good, responsible person nor the giving of time, talent, and treasure alone — even though they are important. It has to begin with a deeper understanding… not so much in the action-based standards, but our very own theocentric identity, mission, and purpose! In a day and age when we talk much about love, mercy, and compassion but lack the genuineness of self-donating, sacrificial, and life-giving love, genuine Christian stewardship reminds us of what it truly means to love one another as He has blessed us. When each and every one of us chooses to live a life of stewardship, our society will become less institutionalized, politicized, and hypocritical, hence able to naturally transform itself with true understanding of humanity that is grounded in faithful service.
In order to be good stewards of God‘s gifts, we first have to know who we are in His eyes. Therefore, we have to first learn to be His sons and daughters. It is a personal and intimate understanding that all that we have first come from Him, given to us out of divine generosity; therefore, what we have received in life is not necessarily ours for the taking but given in and through divine providence. We are called to cooperate with the Giver in order to truly appreciate and pass on the divine blessings to others! In other words, stewardship, when understood from the lenses of our faith-filled identity, gives us a more organic and deepened joy, happiness, and fellowship with the divine and one another.
While contributions of time, talent, and treasure are important to build up our local church and society, if we do not have that deepened sense of understanding and identity of who we are and who we belong to, we will end up being burned out or become busybodies that like to linger around the church or our favorite organizations for the sake of “doing things” or “proving ourselves.” Therefore, it is important to go beyond the action-based mentality to find our true sense of stewardship, to genuinely give and humbly receive from others.
I want to take this moment to share with you a real story of my paternal grandmother and her simple but powerful life examples…
When I used to live with my paternal grandparents, my grandma would always save a little bit of money each day even though we did not have a lot. At first, I did not understand why, especially when that small amount can sum up to a nice meat dinner once in a while (since we can only afford rice and vegetables most of the time, and meat was only eaten on big festivities). Nevertheless, my grandma faithfully kept saving the little that she had in order to pay a cyclist who was poorer than us. She told him to take her, myself, and my aunt to church every Sunday and holy days; and in return, she paid him for his service from the money that she saved. I remembered that he did not want to take the money in the beginning, but my grandma would always found ways to make him accept it. Furthermore, every New Year’s, she would buy a little something for his family; and he, in return, also gave us something back as a sign of gratitude.
You see? Stewardship does not have to be complicated, costs a lot, or be much in quantity. My grandmother in her most simple but loving way practiced stewardship with what we had. It is first and foremost a reflected action that is grounded in Christian love, gratitude, and sharing of one’s self to one another. Simply put, when we understand who we are and grow in that God-given identity, we will become good stewards of His love to others. Our true stewardship, when truly lived out, will not just be based on mere actions or achievements but real community building and fraternity, with God as the center and in our midst.
Stewardship reminds us that we cannot expect the government or other institutional organizations to do the works that we are called to do out of loving service and self-donating care of one another. We cannot just sit and be frustrated because other people are not doing something while pontificating or thinking that things should be this or that way! If we want this world to be less hypocritical and warmer with love, we have to choose to love by being genuine servants and honest stewards of His love for all, especially for the least of our brothers and sisters. If we forget that we are His hands and feet, His presence for this world, we ourselves will become hardened, isolated, and critical of others. However, with simple and genuine acts of loving service, we can share our gifts and lift one another up along the journey with the blessings given to us by the Almighty.
If we grasp our true understanding of stewardship as children of God, even if we do not meet the objective financial or administrative goals of time, talent, and treasure, our community will continue to flourish and stay strong because of the love enlivened and shared among its members. If we look at life from this deepened identity, our faith community and society at large will not just be a set of institutions to be kept or goals to be met, but a true family where we belong and worth building up. Therefore, let us not just build an institutional parish or mechanized society that is based on high-performance goals and well-graphed objectives, but a family that sticks with each other in times of blessings and challenges through the sharing and receiving of one another’s gifts out of love, faith, and hope. Is it challenging? Yes! However, we can do it one step at a time with a deep understanding and joy of who we are, especially with His loving grace because, “All is grace!” (St. Therese of Lisieux) We can give much to each other with just a little genuine loving grace by sharing our gifts in serving one another.