I’m going to move away from environmental subject matter today and really get to the heart of what I believe stewardship is – and isn’t.
In case you think this is a rant, well… you’re partially correct. But this is more a reflection on where my thoughts have lead me as I put them into the context of the degree I’m studying for right now, as well as a reflection on my experiences in the church: as paid staff, a volunteer, and as someone just watching from the pew.
OK, big question: when you hear the word “stewardship” (or see it written), what comes to mind first? Quickly now. Was it tithing? Was it the offering plate? Was it giving money to special causes or offerings that might come up? Be honest. OK.
Giving money is an important part of being a good steward, but it’s not the only part of being a good steward. A good steward uses all of his or her resources, not just money, to make an impact on the world around them – also known as the Kingdom of God, by the way. But at some point, one can not just give money towards something and expect that to be the end of his or her stewardship capabilities, or more importantly, God’s expectations of him or her as a steward. Giving money to your church? Great! Giving money for the special offering? Great!
But are you doing the other things, the more difficult things, the things that God has uniquely gifted you to do – or are you allowing someone else in the church to do your job? Be honest here, too. I’ll start. I know I’m not doing everything God wants me to do right now. I could very well make time, if I really put my priorities in the right order. Like you, I’m busy. I’m a wife and mother, and I also work and go to school full time. I juggle. We all juggle.
That’s not an excuse.
When we don’t do what God has gifted us to do, the whole Body of Christ suffers (I think I’ve said this before). I know some of you are thinking, “But I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.” or “I don’t know what my gifts are!”
I’m talking about spiritual gifts, what the Greek calls the charismata, those gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, Romans 12:6-8, and Ephesians 4:11 (The gifts are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues (human and other), interpretation of tongues, service, encouragement, giving/helping, leadership, mercy, apostleship, evangelism, teaching, and shepherding (pastor)). If you are a believer in Christ, you have one of these gifts! 1 Cor. 12:7 says, “Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” There’s no getting out of it or around it, I’m afraid, because you are part of that “each one” that Paul is talking about here.
This leads me to my next question: whose job is it to do stuff in the church? It seems kind of obvious, judging from what I’ve already said, doesn’t it. But how many times have you said, “Oh, that’s the pastor’s job. He (she) gets paid to do that.” How many times have you just thought it? It’s not the pastor’s job. The pastor’s job, according to Eph. 4:11 and 12, is to prepare God’s people for works of service. What they get paid to do it to train us so that we’re fully competent to go out and do the work that God has gifted us to do. Their job is not to do our jobs for us because we abdicate the position.
Last night in Environmental Economics, we learned about something called the Tragedy of the Commons. If you have a strong background in economics, please forgive me if a botch this up – it was only my second class. The commons are basically communal property, land that no one owns and everyone can use. Now imagine that 50 families live on this land, and each has a cow, and they all graze their cows on this land. Usually, when a calf is born, each family sells the calf and the cows on the land remain at fifty. But one year, someone decides not to sell the calf, and grazes the calf on the same land with the other fifty cows. He thinks, “One cow won’t make a difference to this land.” The problem here is that every other family decided to keep their calves, so now there aren’t fifty cows grazing this limited amount of space, but one hundred.
Do you see the problem? There is a limited amount of space, a limited amount of grazing land for each cow, and when the herd is doubled, the amount of space each cow can have to roam and feed is halved. So this is the Tragedy of the Commons: What makes sense to the individual makes no sense to the community. This is a serious situation in which one person really does make a difference, because all the other people are making the same choice.
Let’s reverse this. What makes sense to the individual makes no sense to the community. It might make sense to you to say, “Well, I don’t need to use my gift of teaching because someone else will teach that Sunday School class.” Or, “I don’t need to use my gift of service because someone else will serve in my stead.” The truth is, a bunch of other people are thinking the same exact thing as you. It makes sense to you, the individual, but it makes no sense to the community, the Body of Christ.
One person does make a difference. If one person can hurt the community because several other individuals are also not using their gifts, then how much more good can one person do when several other individuals are saying, “Here I am Lord – send me”?
I’ve got news for you today, and it might piss you off, but here it is anyway: it’s not your pastor’s job. It’s yours. God called your pastor and your ministry staff to your church to do their jobs, not yours. That doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every little thing someone asks you to do, but it does mean that you need to say yes to the thing you know God has called and equipped you to do.
It’s time, people. There are people out there who are dying physically and spiritually because we’re sitting on our asses doing nothing and ignoring Jesus’ command to teach the lost about Him. God gives us these gifts to serve the lost, and we’ll be held accountable for all the people who remain lost because we said “no” to using our gifts.