I wonder what it would be like for each of us to see all our so-called possessions—fossil fuels and trees, farms and churches, our talent, skills, bodies, minds and money—as things we have been given to tend for God’s purpose, even those we worked hard to gain. I wonder what it would be like truly to share what we have with a sense of gratitude and abundance, holding it all lightly.
Especially money. Because God knows money matters. It does. God knows that what we say, do and believe about money, affects what we say, do and believe about others in the world around us. It affects what we say, do and believe about ourselves. And about God.
Money and faith
It's all interrelated, all co-mingled. Every time we give or spend or save or borrow a dollar, it is an expression of faith, an expression of what we value, of what we believe to be true.
Jesus and the Gospels teach us to hold money lightly, to give of it generously, that it shows where our treasure and our hearts are. Life with God is about abundance and about abundant generosity. Sell all you have, Jesus tells the rich young ruler who wants to follow him. It's easier for a camel to get through the narrow eye of the needle gate than it is for a rich person to live in God's Kingdom. Look at the birds of the air—if God looks after them and provides them with all they need, surely you don't need to worry about your financial security….
It isn’t easy. Because we live in a culture that lures us into thinking that we need more than we’ve got, we want more than we’ve got. And unless we are extremely wealthy, most of us can look around and see other people with a whole lot more stuff and resources than we have. It’s tempting to want more. It’s hard to know how much money is enough. Especially when we want to pay for education or live without debt or provide for our children or avoid burdening them as we age or retire without anxiety about finances or enjoy some of the incredible things and places that this world of God’s has to offer.
The church’s mission and ours
The mission of the church offers a good lens for assessing the way we use God’s stuff. The church’s mission, according to the Book of Common Prayer, is to restore all people to unity with God and with our fellow human creatures in Christ (p. 855). This is helpful.
Before I do something or give something or spend, keep or borrow something, I can ask myself, Does this thing I am about to do, this money I am about to spend, give, save or borrow, help in that great restoration project of God’s? Or does it break things down further? It’s a good question, and it gets at the heart of what we might call ‘mindful stewardship.’
What is mindful stewardship?
Mindful stewardship involves careful attention to:
How we spend our time and how we use our resources, including, perhaps especially, our money—all the dollars we spend, save, give and borrow.
What corrupts, destroys or offends the people of God, what sets us at odds.
What restores us and others to God and to one another, what brings us together, what pulls us apart, what puts a burden on us or others and what gives us or others more freedom.
Mindful stewardship asks us to:
Pause and to think before we act.
Strike a balance between the convenience of individually wrapped portions of our cereal bars or nuts, and the potential for less waste if we were to buy in bulk, or at least in a larger package.
Consider not only how much time we spend surfing social media, but the tone and content of what we post.
Sleep in an extra hour or take the stairs instead of the elevator (if we are able) in order to honor the gift of our bodies.
Pause to appreciate the craftsmanship and subtle flavors of a dish or beverage before consuming it with gusto.
Consider the percentage point gained on our investment over and against the employment practices and investments of the corporation that provides our credit card or that percentage point of interest.
Give, freely and abundantly, a measurable portion of our resources to those institutions, individuals and organizations that make known the loving, liberating and life-giving way of Jesus, because we realize that we actually have enough to share.
What we soon discover when we practice mindful stewardship is that this way of being, spending and giving, is itself loving, liberating and life-giving, restoring us to God and to our fellow human beings in the Spirit of Christ.
The world of faith and life and love expands. And it is good.
The Rev. Lisa G. Fischbeck is the founding Vicar of the Episcopal Church of The Advocate, a 21st century mission in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, known for its engaging liturgy, the Pee Wee Homes (a model for church-hosted affordable housing), The Piedmont Patch Collaborative (restoring native flora and fauna to the Piedmont, one patch at a time), and its transplanted and restored 19th century chapel. Fischbeck is particularly interested in how the church can participate in the restoration of the world around us in new and collaborative ways.
Christian Stewardship by Sandra Montes, Vestry Papers, September 2017
Stewardship for the New Millennium an ECF webinar by Terri Mathes and Erin Weber-Johnson, September 10, 2013
Simple Giving by Lisa Meeder Turnbull, ECF Vital Practices blog, October 7, 2011
Generations Walking the Way an ECF webinar by Angela Emerson and J. R. Lander, September 24, 2014
Wholehearted Stewardship by Erin Weber-Johnson, Vestry Papers, September 2013
This article is part of the September 2018 Vestry Papers issue onPractical Stewardship