Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. [1 Peter 4:10]
I’ve been thinking a lot about stewardship lately. When I was growing up whenever the church we were attending talked about stewardship they were really talking about money. At least once a year, usually around tax time, we would have what was called Stewardship Sunday. The pastor would talk about all the great work the church was doing and how much it all cost and then wrap up with an appeal for all of the members of the congregation to “commit to supporting our ministry with the riches God has entrusted to each of us”. It was all very predictable and it could get very awkward.
But being a faithful steward is not just about how you spend your money. Wikipedia says; “Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment, economics, health, property, information, theology, etc.” While Webster defines stewardship as; “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something”
Clearly stewardship isn’t really about money, although it can be.
When Peter talked of stewarding God’s grace he did so in a context of service. The entire paragraph of his letter that the previous verse is lifted from reads;
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 4:7-11]
God could have given each of us exactly what we needed for self-sufficiency and been done with it. That would have been far more efficient as it would have eliminated starvation, want and any need of any kind. It would have also negated the need for relationships and community. It is clear from this passage that God has bestowed his gifts upon his people “unevenly”. Some may have material wealth, others may have the gift of hospitality or wisdom to lead and to teach but none have all of the gifts in equal measure. Therefore we must be willing to serve others with “whatever gift you have”. God has done this in order to bring us together in relationship with one another and with him.
Why? So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. [v. 11]
If you have material wealth then of course you should use some of that “grace” that God has bestowed on you to help the community in which you live, and by community I don’t just mean local community but also the broader human family. Poverty knows no boundaries and injustice, even on the other side of the world has a way of coming home to roost. But stewardship isn’t just about money; it’s about grace, management and human relationships.
Are you hoarding God’s grace?
Jesus told a story about stewardship in the gospel of Matthew. I won’t go into all the details here because it will take too long but at the end of the story Jesus tells us what will happen to those who don’t steward what has been given to them to manage.
For whoever has will be given more and they will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. [Matthew 25: 29]
Don’t hoard God’s grace. It was likely given to you in order that you might bless someone else and thus build the Kingdom. If you hoard it, no one benefits and it may soon be taken from you.