Pastor Mike was in his office working on his sermon for next Sunday when Bob Smith burst through the doorway shaking some papers he had clutched in his hand. “All you guys think about is money! And you keep trying to get me to give you more of my money! And I have had enough of this! Don’t send me these letters anymore!” Bob was the husband of Darla, who served as a Sunday School teacher at Peanut Grove Lutheran Church. “Whoa, whoa!,” said Pastor Mike, gesturing for calm with his hands. “just hold on a minute here, Bob! What’s this all about?”
“You put another one of those letters in my mailbox and if I get one more of those things, I am leaving this church and never coming back again!”
“I think I know what you are talking about Bob, but I want to make sure. What letter are you referring to?”
“It’s another one of those stewardship letters! You sent me one of those things last year, and I don’t need another one this year to (Bob sarcastically began paraphrasing from the letter) “encourage me in my stewardship of God’s resources”! You church people have no idea about how things are in the real world! You think that you can just write these letters and people will give you more money to spend. I have a mortgage payment and bills to pay and one kid that needs braces and another one in university and I have to try to find a way to pay for all these things! And then you and your “Stewardship Committee” come along and tell me that I need to give more money to the church. There isn’t anything more to give, Mike! And I am tired of you making me feel guilty about it!”
Pastor Mike looked Bob in the eye and said, “I’m sorry, Bob! I am sorry for making it sound like all we think about here at Peanut Grove Lutheran Church is money. Can I buy you a coffee so we can talk about this some more?”
“Sure,” said Bob. “I never turn down a free coffee.”
Pastor Mike locked up his office and the two men began their short walk over to the nearest Starbucks. It was October and the leaves on the trees offered up a wide variety of beautiful colours to engage the eyes of anyone who would take the time to see. Brilliant reds, bright oranges and beautiful yellows enriched the green colours that were available all year round. The air was cool and crisp, but the sun was shining, the sky was clear and fresh snow had fallen in the mountains, bringing the snow line halfway down the mountain slopes. “What a beautiful day God has given us today!” exclaimed Pastor Mike.
‘Yes he has,” agreed Bob in a quiet voice.
“How is Jenny doing?”
“Oh, she is doing fine,” Bob replied. “She’s a few weeks into Grade Eleven at the Ft. Dandy Fine Arts High School. She’s playing piano and trumpet and she joined the drama club.”
Both Pastor Mike and Bob knew that it was a miracle that Jenny was even alive. When she was five, she almost died because of an allergic reaction to a bee sting that happened during a family vacation in Alberta. They happened to be just five minutes away from a hospital in Calgary when it occured. If it had happened while they were camping in the mountains, they would have lost her.
“She is in her second year of Bachelor of Science at ABC University. Her marks are good and she is hoping to apply to med school in a couple years.” Bob treasured his daughters and he reflected for a moment on how blessed he was that they were both healthy, beautiful and intelligent young women.
When a cheerful barista asked what she could get them, Pastor Mike spoke first, “I’ll have an Iced Quad Venti with Whip Skinny Caramel Macchiato, for here, please.”
Bob rolled his eyes and said, “You come here far too often! I’ll have a medium black coffee.”
When their drinks came, Bob and Mike selected a couple of comfortable chairs by the fireplace.
Mike paused for a moment then said, “You know Bob, I don’t think that we at Peanut Grove Lutheran Church have done a very good job at communicating about what stewardship is. Stewardship is not about getting money out of people’s wallets and purses and into the church offering plate.”
“Well what is it?”
Mike looked up something on his smartphone, “I pulled this definition of stewardship off of a website:
CHRISTIAN STEWARDSHIP is the free and joyous activity of the child of God and God’s family, the church, in managing all of life and life’s resources for God’s purposes.
So stewardship is really management. It is management all of that God gives to us, and that includes finances, but it is not just about finances. All of life is a gift to us from God. And God has been so good to us. Not only has he given us life in this world, he has also given us Jesus. Is it okay if I read you some verses from the Bible?”
“Sure,” said Bob. Mike pulled out a pocket edition of the Bible. He thumbed through the pages until he found what he was looking for. “Okay, here it is, 2 Corinthians 8:9. ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’ Bob, Jesus had it all. He had all of the power and riches and glory of heaven and yet he set it all aside and became poor carpenter in a backwater town in Palestine to die on a cross and rise again so that you could have the richness of life with God right now. All of the wealth in this world pales in comparison to what Jesus has already given you. Even if you owned everything in the whole universe, you still would not have enough to pay for the forgiveness, the hope and the life that Jesus gives to just one person—that he gives to you—for free.”
“That is amazing,” Bob thoughtfully replied.
“Yes, it is!” Mike agreed. “And that amazing Good News is the basis for everything that we do in life. Our whole life is a response to all the good things that Jesus has done for us.”
Both men sipped their coffees. Bob was thinking that next time he would be adventuresome and order a Venti Wet Dry Carmel Macarena Shop Vac like Mike had. Mike wondered if he should start going back to Tim Horton’s once again. Bob eventually came around to thinking about the topic at hand. He thought of all of the good things that had happened in his life: Meeting and marrying Darla, having two beautiful healthy children, finding a church like Peanut Grove Lutheran Church which was full of quirky, mixed up, broken people just like him but somehow that was okay because they all knew that Jesus loves quirky, mixed up, broken people. Pastor Mike kept reminding them about that every Sunday. Bob broke the silence first. “So stewardship is not about the church getting people to give more money.”
“No,” said Mike. “Stewardship is about how we live our lives in response to what Jesus has done for us. Because Jesus loves us so much we want to manage all aspects of our lives, including our finances, to the best of our abilities. Because Jesus loves us so much we want to use all the resources under our care to share his love with others. Because Jesus loves us so much we want to encourage others to be good stewards—not to give them another thing to do—life is busy enough as it is—but because it is in being a good steward that our live has real meaning and purpose. God had given us a great opportunity—to live our lives in such a way that everything we do, even the small things, can make a difference that will last forever. And that’s what stewardship of life is all about. Here’s another verse from the Bible—2 Corinthians, chapter 5, ‘For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ (2 Corinthians 5:14-15) We don’t always get it right, but that is what we are trying to do at Peanut Grove Lutheran Church. We are trying to live for Jesus. That’s why we send out those stewardship letters that you love to receive.”
“But why,” asked Bob, “is this stewardship thing so hard? If stewardship is such a good thing, shouldn’t it be easy?”
“Do you mean like raising kids?” Mike replied. “Come on, Bob, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. But good stewardship is even more challenging than most things because it involves our possessions, and our possessions are often too close to our hearts. We don’t want to give to God because we want to keep more for ourselves, and we think that gaining and keeping more for ourselves is how we gain life. But just the opposite is true: when we give away our entire life and all that we have to God, that is when we discover our true life, that is when we experience the rich, full abundant life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10 when he says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
“I still don’t know how to be a good manager,” Bob responded. “Each month we seem to run out of money before all the bills get paid. Darla and I often argue about how much money we should give in our offering. We don’t have any savings to fall back on if something goes wrong. Where do I even start?”
“Now who’s talking about stewardship as if it was all about money?”
“Okay, okay. I get it. But seriously, how do I become a good steward?”
“Well it all starts with Jesus and how he managed his life for your sake. Good stewardship is always a response to what Jesus has first done for us and so you can respond in four ways:
First, Centre the Good News of Jesus and all that he has done for you at the core of who you are and all that you do. What do you need to do to remember that Jesus loves you? Do you need to read the Bible every day? Do you need to pray every day? Do you need to go for a walk in the woods to feel close to God? Then that is what you do.
Second, Admit your lust for possessions and money to God and ask for his forgiveness. We all have wants and desires, but sometimes we want things too much, or we want things that are not good for us to have, and we need to ask God to help us in those areas.
Third, Learn God’s way for managing your time, possessions and money. Christian authors like Ron Blue and Dave Ramsay can be helpful in this area.
Fourth, develop and implement a plan to Manage your time, your possessions and your money. Do you take time off during the week to be with your family? When is that going to be? Are you going to have a quiet time with God each day? When will you schedule that? Do you need to plan out what happens on Sunday morning to make attending worship a less stressful event? Do you have too much stuff in your home? Do you need to dejunk your garage or your office? Do you have a plan to build up an emergency fund, pay down your debts and build up your savings? Do you and Darla sit down and plan how you will support God’s mission of saving the world with your time, your abilities and your finances? All these things can be part of your plan to be a good steward, a good manager, of the life that God has given to you.
Mike grabbed a napkin, pulled out a pen and began writing. “And here’s an easy way to remember the ways we can respond to Jesus and what he has done for us. The first letters of Confess, Admit, Learn and Manage spell CALM and managing life for God’s purposes gives us a sense of calm and peace and joy that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”
“CALM, eh? You’ve given me a lot of things to think about.”
“One of the small groups in our church is going to be studying this topic. That might be helpful for you.”
“That sounds good. I’ll have to talk to Darla about it.”
A year later, Bob and Pastor Mike walk over to the same Starbucks. Bob is now chairing the stewardship committee and the pair plan to discuss ways that the church can encourage people to be good stewards of all aspects of their lives. Bob orders first, “I’ll have a For Here, Half-Caf, Quad, Iced Grande, Soy, Starbucks Doubleshot™ on Ice + Energy” Mike is amazed in the difference a year has made in the life of his friend and then orders a Tall Chai Tea Latte. They sit by the fireplace again and savour the fragrance and flavour of their hot beverages.
“How are things going Bob?” Mike asks.
“Things are going great!” Bob replied.
Mike continued. “I’ve been thinking about the time we were here a year ago and what we talked about then, and I’m wondering what, if anything, has changed for you.”
“You know, Mike,” Bob thoughtfully replied, “nothing has changed and everything has changed. God the Father was always there, always watching over me and my family, preserving us, protecting us and providing for us. Jesus was always right beside me, always ready to forgive me, always ready to carry my heavy burdens for me. The Holy Spirit was always with me, ready to give me the courage, the wisdom and the strength I needed to face whatever challenges lay before me. But I didn’t really believe that that was true before. I thought that it was up to me to make it on my own. But now I do believe that God really is always there to help me. And that has made all the difference. Now I live for him.
And there is more peace in our home and in my heart. My relationships with Darla and the girls are better. Our finances are in better shape. I don’t worry now when the car breaks down. I really enjoy serving at the church. Even at work, even if I don’t get to talk about Jesus I feel like I am serving others with his love. And every once in while, someone asks me a question that gives me a chance to share a little bit about my faith. I feel so blessed and I have a greater sense of purpose in everything I do. That’s stewardship of life.” Amen.
(This message was shared at Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC on 18 October 2009.)
 “Biblical Stewardship Priniciples,” Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Internet; Found at: http://www.lcms.org/ca/dcs/stewardship/principles_begin1a.asp; downloaded on 16 Oct 2009.