Steward Ship Sunday – Theology of Stewardship
Frequently Asked Questions
What is stewardship?
Simply put, a steward is someone who is called upon to manage something that belongs to someone else. He or she is a caretaker of another person’s mini-van, condo, ski boat, etc. These are valuable items and therefore they need a steward who is trustworthy and responsible. Our Catholic theology of stewardship reflects the reality that what we have (our time, talent, and treasure) is on loan to us, not from another person, but from God. What we have belongs to the Lord and we in turn are to care for these gifts in a responsible and trustworthy manner. How is a steward called to respond? Taking an inventory of all of the gifts and blessings we have received from God naturally turns our hearts to gratitude. It is that spirit of gratitude which then inspires us to give back to God a portion of what has been given to us. We give because we are grateful.
Why can’t we just give to the needs of the Church?
Stewardship is a radically different approach to how many Catholics view sacrificial giving. For example, we are inclined to sign up when we learn a particular Mass is in need of lectors. We volunteer to help with coffee and donuts when the parish is in need of help. We make a sacrificial gift when the roof needs to be replaced. These are acts of generosity based on the needs of the Church. Stewardship is based on the need of the giver to give, and not on the need of the parish to receive. Stewardship is not about giving to needs, it is about needing to give. When we generously return a portion of our God- given gift of time, talent, and treasure, we respond to our baptismal promise and therefore, grow in our spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ.
What is tithing?
Tithing is the practice, established by God in the Old Testament, of returning 10% of our blessings to God. Originally the tithe was given in the form of produce or livestock since this really was the only income that the people had. Throughout Jewish & Christian history the tithe was not given based on the needs of the priests, of the Church, or of the poor. It was given simply in recognition and gratitude for the blessings that God had bestowed on the individual. Thus, every believer had a need to tithe to God. The amazing thing is that our God is a generous and abundant God who lets us keep and enjoy 90% of all His blessings. “The tithes of the herd and the flock shall be determined by ceding to the Lord as sacred every tenth animal as they are counted by the herdsman’s rod.” – Leviticus 27:32
How can stewardship apply to time?
When Catholics hear about tithing, we often think of money. While treasure is certainly a gift from God, so is our time. That is one of the reasons, for example, that we have an obligation to participate in Sunday Mass. God give us 168 hours of time a week and we are called to give back to him the very “first hour” of our week at Sunday Mass. This time is really what we owe to God without regard to the quality of the music or the preaching abilities of the priest.
I don’t have much money and I am very busy. Is anyone exempt from stewardship?
It is clear that the Lord did not offer any exemptions when it came to giving. In the story of the “Widow’s Mite” it is important to note that He did not reach into the offering box and give the widow back her two small coins. When He multiplied the loaves and fishes He asked for all the food that anyone had. Even the Levites or priests of the Old Testament were not exempt from the tithe. Today, parish priests themselves are called to be generous with their time and to give back a percentage of their salaries. Most do this in a sacrificial manner.
What are the benefits to a stewardship way of life?
Catholics who have embraced stewardship report the ability to make a clear distinction in their lives between what they actually need and what they just want. Discerning between needs and wants leads to a life that is simpler, less cluttered, and more focused on what really matters. Ultimately, those who strive to be good stewards often feel that the practice brings more joy, more peace, and more contentment to their lives.