Stewardship, Faith and Life
By Duane Englehardt
Expanding our definition and focus on the stewardship of life can
create thankfulness in our hearts.
I believe that the church can be a relevant force in the life of our
members by proclaiming a significantly broader interpretation of
stewardship. This interpretation can be a meaningful model to vitalize the
lives of our members and to grow in our faith. We are called to be good
stewards of the Gospel and to proclaim the risen Christ.
This is a call to a greater focus on stewardship as a means to grow in
faith and grace. I believe that we need to make significant enhancements
to our understanding of the word "Stewardship" in order to increase the
relevance of the church and to increase our faith. Although we profess a
wider understanding of stewardship, we have allowed it to be primarily
focused on the given of money. Even when we add time and talent to our
discussion, the message we hear is related to money.
We need to focus on the "need of the giver to give" versus the "need of
the institution to receive." If we are thankful for what we have, we will
be elated to make first fruits gifts. We have let the day-to-day pressures
influence our real reason for our spirituality, we will have exciting
results. When we focus on the financial, we will continue to have mediocre
Focusing on the spiritual need to give will increase the giving of time
In baptism, we are called to be faithful, we are called to be good
stewards and we are given the promise that God will be with us always. The
call to faithfulness is fairly well proclaimed. The call to good
stewardship has not been proclaimed with the same zeal or time. We
sometimes forget the promise. The need to focus on total stewardship from
young ages to old can keep us in a growing faith relationship with God.
Let's look at some of the dimensions of stewardship that are relevant
and can add zest to our preaching, our teaching, our learning and our
faith. Our primary focus needs to be on the acceptance that everything we
have is a gift from God. When we lose this focus, we begin a downward
spiral towards self-dependence. We begin to put our trust in other than
God. This was the sin of the rich man in the parable. When we maintain the
proper focus we grow in our faith and our dependence on God. To be good
stewards, we are to use the gifts we have been given to His glory. How do
we increase our focus on God as the Giver of all? It doesn't just happen.
It has to be a priority for our leaders and teachers in order for it to be
a priority for our members. One way to begin is to focus on being good
stewards in all our stages of life:
Childhood - We can begin the stewardship journey by talking about
stewardship of our childhood.
Behavior, learning, co-existing, respect for parents, caring for God's
creation and learning to share are among the topics we can discuss with
young people. These do not stop with childhood. Our basic habits are
developed in these years. We need to use this time as parents, teachers,
and leaders to develop a good understanding of stewardship and to develop
Teenage - This age offers a broad range of issues that can be discussed
relative to our stewardship. Education, foreign substances, sex, time
management, mental health, asset building, development of our
personalities, dating, community involvement, career preparation, and
financial management are all fruitful ground for help to identify WHOSE we
Adulthood - We need to be reminded of our baptism and our gifts. We
need to be thankful for ur gifts. We need to be challenged to give first
fruits of ourselves, including our time, talent and money. We make giving
a priority in our lives to acknowledge that everything we have is a gift
from God. We are stewards of our own lives. We are the stewards of our
children, and jobs, our income, our time, and often of our parents. We
need to be encouraged to make necessary plans for our lives and for the
lives of our families should we leave this earth. Goal setting, financial
planning and wills implementation are areas where the church needs to
enhance our ministry to our members.
Older adulthood - Making a difference is a major concern of this
age group. How do we make a difference?
This requires the goal setting and priority skills developed in earlier
stages. We can make a difference in our families, our church and in our
communities. All of these are parts of God's creation. One is no holier
than the other. A second concern is one of being alone. Are we continuing
to develop the necessary interests and hobbies that will keep us involved
in our families and in our communities?
We have a need to be good stewards of our leisure time. Are we making the
appropriate plans should we develop needs beyond those available to us in
our normal environment? How do we prepare for living longer, for being
alone, possible health problems, and for dying and death of ourselves or
our loved ones? How do we plan for effective distribution of our assets at
death? Have we considered continuation of the church and its mission when
we are no longer here to support it?
Expanding our definition and focus on the stewardship of life can create
thankfulness in our heart. This thankfulness can then result in joyful
giving. We have many joyful givers today. We also have a much larger
number of dutiful givers. We are missing the greatest joy of all:
returning to God what has been loaned to us to use!
Duane Engelhardt of Springfield, N.J., is a past
president of Lutheran Laity Movement for Stewardship. This essay appeared
in the Summer 1998 issue of Faith in Action.