In their pastoral letter, Stewardship, A Disciple’s Response, the U.S. Bishops clearly state, “Once one chooses to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, stewardship is not an option.” In fact, the bishops found it suitable to place that bold statement on the opening page of the document, emphasizing for us the importance of it.
Wait a minute, you mean if I choose to answer the call to discipleship, the call of every Christian, I can’t choose whether I WANT to “do” stewardship or not? Yes. That’s exactly what their short, but strong, statement means. That’s because stewardship is not something you “do.” It is not a program you adopt within the parish. It is not an activity with a start and a finish. Stewardship is a way of life. It is the Christian disciple’s way of life. In other words, it is the way we must live once we give our lives to the Lord.
When Christ called the first disciples, He invited them to drop their nets and follow Him, promising that He would make them fishers of men. In other words, they were called to give up their careers as fishermen and use those talents in service of the Lord, drawing more men to Him. Likewise, Jesus calls us today. He may not be calling us to sacrifice our careers for the sake of the kingdom in such a way that if we are doctors, we must stop practicing medicine and if we are carpenters we must put down the tools, but He is calling us to use the talents He has given us as doctors, carpenters, accountants, and more to build up His kingdom.
What’s more, although most of us are not called to give up our careers, the way in which the first disciples so promptly dropped their nets and followed the Lord sends a very important message to the rest of us. Their response hits the heart of the disciple’s response. Fishing was their livelihood. It was how they ate, how they survived, and yet, at the Lord’s prompting, they gave it up — building the Kingdom of God was more important.
In the same way, as soon as we choose to follow the Lord as His disciples, we must give it all up. We must recognize that all we have — our time, our talent and our treasure and even our very lives — are not ours by right. Rather, God has given them to us, and as His disciples, we must offer everything we are back to God in gratitude and use it in His service. In fact, Jesus Himself tells us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23).
To live as a Christian disciple requires a total gift of self in service to the Lord. In other words, the life of a Christian disciple is a life of stewardship.