Here’s a simple riddle: Name something you can’t keep if you don’t give it away, but if you give it away, it will increase.
The best answer to this riddle, if you haven’t already guessed, is love. But the beauty of this paradox is that there can be a number of different answers. Another response might be artistic talent. Ask any artist, and they’ll tell you that their skill for drawing or painting diminishes after a few weeks or months of inactivity. But the more they paint, the more their talent grows.
We also see this truth illustrated in nature. The Sea of Galilee, teeming with fish and other wildlife, is one example. All of the water in this beautiful reservoir is constantly being drained through the Jordan River, which stretches for about 60 miles, providing the only fresh water for all of Israel. It finally drains into the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. It is consequently stagnant and totally lifeless, continually evaporating into thin air.
The point, in a nutshell, is that the good steward takes care of his or her gifts by giving them away. As a result, you won’t have less left over, but will instead have more!
There is a story about St. Teresa of Calcutta and her visit to one of the hundreds of convents she had founded. The Superior of the convent told her, “Mother, we don’t have enough time to do our work with the poor; there’s just not enough hours in the day.” St. Teresa responded, “Then you need to pray more.” When the convent added another full hour of prayer each day, they somehow found that they had enough time to do even more for the poor in that city.
The difficulty with this idea – that by giving we receive – is that it is still a struggle to give. When we arrive at the moment of giving, it appears on the surface that we will have less left over. This is especially true regarding money. When writing a check to a charity or to the parish, you mathematically end up with less money to spend on other things. And yet, the immaterial value of our sacrifice is immeasurable. This is why Jesus speaks so frequently in the Gospels about the spiritual benefits of giving to others. We do have more after we give, but it is simply more of something else – and something better.
When we emphasize stewardship, it is not primarily to increase “volunteerism” or to swell our budget. Indeed, our first aim is always the “good of the giver.” It is not because the parish has needs, but because we have a need to give. We recognize that the model Steward is Jesus, who gave all, even His very life, so that we may have everything.
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