May 2007

Stewards: Caretakers of God's Abundance

The word stewardship is from the old English word “sty-ward” and refers to the person appointed by the lord of the manor to be the custodian of the manor’s valuable asset — the pig sty. Though the pig sty did not belong to the sty-ward, the treasured responsibility of the pig sty was carried out with care and love for this critical resource of the manor community. This was a job of prestige and importance.

The responsibilities of stewards over time have remained broad. The resources in question are not insignificant but rather both critical and treasured; they are managed for the good of the community; and nowhere are these resources defined as purely monetary. They are resources managed by someone other than the owner and requiring the steward’s time, talents and treasures. Sound familiar?

As Christians, we live in community whenever two or more of us are gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ. There is responsibility in our community to be good stewards of all of our resources — resources which we tend to think belong to us. We are transients in this world and as the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you.” If we could take it with us, we would go empty handed because all that we have, no matter how small or large, comes from and belongs to God. We are on this earth simply as the caretakers of God’s abundance.

Being good stewards means more than pledging to the annual fall campaign, contributing to the latest parish fundraiser or making a will with a bequest to our church. It is about more than spending several hours a week at church studying or working. It is about more than sharing our personal talents to further God’s work in our communities. It is about our relationship with God and with each other. It is about using everything we have — our work, our wisdom, our wealth — in a Christ like way. All day, each day, in every way.

Much reflection has taken place in our world, a world that has changed dramatically in the first years of the 21st century. As we travel our short journey on earth, may we all reflect on the meaning of “stewardship” and the relationships we choose to nourish and build with all that we have — our gifts from God. May we leave legacies that our children and grandchildren will remember as meaningful and significant to their lives as Christians as well as to the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Frances Caldwell, Director of Stewardship and Development at St. James’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, is chair of the Stewardship Committee for the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, a member of the Consortium’s Annual Conference Committee, and a member of the Stewardship Committee of the Diocese of Virginia.

This article is part of the May 2007 Vestry Papers issue on Stewardship