If you were asked to explain the relationship between stewardship and your Catholic faith, could you do it?
It may, at first, seem too difficult a task. But if we take our faith seriously, we are already being persuaded to live our lives in light of Church teaching. We will therefore improve as stewards of God’s gifts. So it should not be difficult to make a connection between Catholicism and Christian stewardship. However, many of us struggle with articulating this connection, or do not understand how stewardship is connected to our faith.
We often attempt to compartmentalize different parts of our lives, separating work from family, and our social life from our faith life. Then we struggle and resist when it is suggested that our faith life is our life, belonging in every part of our daily activities – at work, at home and with our friends.
An essay written by Bill McKibben in the July 1999 issue of Harper’s relates that the writer once held an experiment, requesting that people record everything that came across a large cable-TV system. He then spent a year watching it, “trying to figure out what the world would look like to you if this were your main window onto it.” He discovered that “you are the most important thing on earth. You sitting there on the couch clutching the remote, are the center of creation, the heaviest object in the known universe; all things orbit your desires. This Bud’s for You.”
This is, of course, why so many of us fail to make a real connection between stewardship and our faith. Stewardship, by definition, assumes God as the center of reality — the point upon which everything lives and exists. But we often live our lives as if we ourselves are that point. Even our faith is geared to what “I can get out of it.” If we don’t like our parish’s architecture, priest, music program or choir director, then we just don’t contribute to the parish fund. If our parish doesn’t have a youth program to our liking, a thriving singles group or a thoroughly networked senior citizen’s advocacy organization, then we just move to another parish that does. We are in turn perceiving our faith in terms of “products” that we dislike, and are simply choosing not to buy.
We may also misunderstand stewardship as being primarily beneficial to ourselves, believing that God will bless us more, that we will be recognized as conscientious, or that it’s simply tax deductible.
But what if we start seeing stewardship as a natural consequence of realizing that our Savior Jesus Christ is the center of life? What if we begin to intentionally will to allow God to be the dominant influence in every factor of our lives? Stewardship would then take care of itself.
The Catholic faith begins and ends with God, the Creator and Giver of every gift. How we use these gifts is a direct reflection of our personal relationship to God. Most of us are primarily self-oriented consumers of goods, and we often use our gifts for self-gratification. Our relationship with God is also usually geared toward pleasing ourselves instead of God. However, the absolute goal and essence of living the life of a Catholic steward is simple – to move toward God-centered living.