“Stewardship” is the word we use in the Church for the money members of the congregation donate to support the many costs of running a church: building expenses, supplies, salaries, etc. But money is just a tiny corner of our stewardship under God. The Bible makes it very clear that human beings are not the owners of anything. It all belongs to God:

The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)

Yet, right from the beginning, in the Creation Account, God puts human beings in a position where they are assigned to organize and run a significant part of his Creation on earth:

“Fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26, 28)

This is stewardship, and it’s presented more as a responsibility than a privilege.

When the Israelites came in to take possession of the Land God had promised them, it was not as owners, but as stewards. He made this clear to them in the instructions about Sabbath and Jubilee Years, detailed in Leviticus 25. God included this specific reminder:

The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. (Leviticus 25:23)

This reality was also demonstrated in the pattern of tithing — giving one-tenth of the crop, the product or income to the Temple, which represented the Presence of God (the true owner) on earth. This pattern of tithing, as an acknowledgement of Who is the actual Owner of that part of Creation we control, was acknowledged and reinforced by Jesus (Matthew 23:23) and has persisted in his Church for more than two thousand years since.

The concept of stewardship rather than ownership has prevailed under every form of human government that has emerged, from absolute monarchies, to autocratic dictatorships and even to modern capitalism in Western Democracies. Rich Capitalists don’t own the things they seem to possess, any more than their poorest entry-level employees do. They may never acknowledge this on earth, but some day they will, before the True Owner. (See Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 and the Parable of the Dishonest Steward in Luke 16:1 ff.)

So, this Sunday ABC will be having our Annual Congregational Meeting. One of the important decisions we will face is how to adopt a budget in the face of some harsh fiscal realities, caused by the loss of some faithful supporting members who have died or moved away, as well as the lasting effects of the COVID Pandemic. I’ve been considering what to say to encourage you to pitch in and become part of the solution. The stewardship Bible passage that came to me actually says nothing about money. In a time of hardship, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Church under his care:

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

How can we be good stewards? By serving one another; by speaking the very words of God to one another; and by sharing whatever gift each of us has received out of the manifold grace of God. This may involve our making new financial commitments, but also may lead us to dedicate more time and work in fulfilling ABC’s mission. It will bring glory to God, the True Owner of all things.

— Pastor George Van Alstine