As I’ve been thinking pastorally about how to discuss stewardship in more organic/inspiring/encouraging and less demanding/threatening/guilting ways, I’m convinced that I must begin with myself before I ever look at what or how another person should seek to grow in this area of discipleship. (I think the feeling by many in the church, overall, is that how can a pastor get up and talk about giving if they themselves are not demonstrating it firsthand. Right or wrong, this thought is propelling me forward in being more open and honest about my personal downfalls and yet gradual learnings with how to be a more faithful steward of the gifts with which I’ve been entrusted.) Therefore, as I think about acknowledging blessings as the first step in stewardship, I want to share a couple gifts of mine—not to boast or brag about what I have, but simply to give thanks to God and begin considering how I can steward these, among other, gifts in faithful service to the Lord. First and foremost, I give thanks to God for my family. My wife, our son, my parents and siblings, my wife’s family, our extended relatives, and those who may not be related by blood but have served in familial ways—all of these people, more names than I can list out, are daily blessings for me. The love and support I have received from them along the way, the compassion and forgiveness they have shared and shown to me on countless occasions, the guidance and examples I have received from many who have helped to shape me into the person that I am—all of these are blessings without compare. These people are each and altogether blessings for which my life would not be the same without. Second, I give thanks to God for the gifts of conversation and consolation. Martin Luther talked about “the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters” as being one way in which the gospel is shared. Ministry done by anyone—clergy and laity, pastor or people alike—is done fundamentally in the building and nurturing of relationships, otherwise tended to by mutual conversation and consolation. When I reflect on my ministry as a pastor of two rural churches in Nebraska—though I’m continually learning and growing in it—I consider a huge part of what I do on a daily basis to be talking with people and comforting them along life’s journey. If it weren’t for God filling me with the Holy Spirit, so as to listen attentively, relate with people, and speak words of care, compassion, and comfort, I would be unable to tend to those in need as I feel I have been called in my pastoral vocation. Lastly (for the sake of blogpost brevity), I give thanks to God for the opportunity to work and, through my compensation, being able to provide for my family, live comfortably, and have an abundance to share with others in generosity. Serving as a pastor doesn’t mean (in most cases) making millions, but I’ll be honest, more days than not I wake up and think to myself: “I am truly blessed that I not only get to work in a job that is fulfilling, but it also provides for my family and I.” To work in a job that is personally fulfilling, serves others, and is compensated fairly is a blessing not shared many in the world—I fully understand that. It’s a sad reality, but too many people either work doing something they consider less than life-giving, or they are not compensated appropriately for the work itself. Such a blessing as this is one that needs to be vocalized amidst a society plagued with a viewpoint of money being most important and work being drudgery overcome.
So now it’s your turn, what are a few (to begin with) blessings in your life? More than just material, what are the relationships and resources you have been given which deserve thanks and praise to God? Stewardship is not restricted to how much you make or how few bills you have—it’s not a money thing, it’s a blessings thing. All of us, regardless what we do for a living, how much we get paid, or our standard of living, have been and are daily given countless blessings by God. You probably have blessings you’ve either never considered as such or overlooked for one reason or another. If we are unaware of what all we have (been given), and/or unable to see it as a blessing—a gift freely given, not earned but bestowed out of love—how will we ever able to serve as faithful stewards, managing and sharing God’s abundant resources with others in need? The initial question that needs asking is not: Is there enough to go around? How should it be determined where certain gifts are distributed? or Why should we use our blessings in service to the Lord? Stewardship does not begin with envisioning a utopia worth mimicking; but simply looking up and around to see and give thanks for all with which God daily blesses us. Stewardship is a practice of generosity rooted in thankfulness which is self-aware of what is now, what could be in the future, and what is possible anytime by God’s grace and mercy. Consider your blessings, acknowledge them, and from there we can start thinking creatively about how to share them in service to the Lord.