What is stewardship? Is there a stewardship definition? Can anybody define stewardship? In this simple but not easy lesson. Kristofer and Beth explain how if we give to God first, only and all good will follow. Stewardship and giving to God first takes some thought and practice, but we all define stewardship eventually by our lives and how we live them – and give them. This week there is a deeper conversation than usual, and a rather demanding activity. Do you dare define stewardship by giving to God first?
Stewardship: Give to God First
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Catechesis At Home – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B
Stewardship: Give to God First
REFLECTION – Stewardship
We hear about stewardship in the readings this week. What is stewardship? To define stewardship in the oldest sense it is the duty of the highest servant, the Steward, in a royal court or aristocratic household. The Steward had the job of making sure all the bills were paid, all the other servants were doing their jobs, and that the whole enterprise of “running” the kingdom, estate or establishment was smooth.
[In Downton Abbey, Carson was the Steward of the House; in Game of Thrones, the Hand of The King is the Steward of Westeros (or whichever Kingdom in Westeros!), and the Houses have stewards who are in charge when the lord is absent.]
When God gave Adam dominion over Creation, He made human beings its stewards (Gen 1:26-28; Ps 8:6). It is this caretaking that we are called to as part of our human nature. The readings this week show us how by giving God the glory for the material goods we have on earth, we are rewarded in grace because we are following Natural Law and Divine Law.
The first reading from Kings is the story of the widow and the prophet Elijah. This widow is down to her last bit of flour and oil before she and her son face starvation. God promises through Elijah that He will provide for her if she first feeds Elijah, God’s anointed servant. Elijah is asking the widow to give to God first, even before she satisfies her basic needs, or even those of her son’s. God is faithful and does in fact keep the flour and oil miraculously available for an entire year – for all three of them! Does this mean that if we give from our last bit of food we will not starve? Maybe. It certainly teaches that we can always help others, even in our own most desperate situations. We do know that God provides in most unexpected and abundant ways! Our family’s survival during the pandemic, and Holy Owned and Operated are firsthand proof of God’s amazing miracle that happens when we give to Him first.
In the Gospel Jesus points us to the “widow’s mite” (according to Webster, a “mite” is “a small coin or sum of money”). This widow gave only two coins, apparently all she had, to God through the collection at the Temple as her offering. This brings up a lot of questions when we hear of it: How will this help her? How does it even make a dent in the running of the Temple? Shouldn’t she just hold onto it so she can buy some bread (flour and oil!) for herself? Can the Temple do without it? This giving from her poverty shows the widow’s limitless faith in God and His Providence. Yet we think that if we give our last bit and do not have money to pay our rent or electricity, where does that get us except homeless? Maybe we do not think we can give money to the Church, because we have just enough to pay our bills and buy groceries for our family.
But what is the Church? God calls everybody to His Church, including those worse off than us. And no matter how bad things are for us, they are worse for many others. What if we used more water in our ramen tonight, and shared the other packet with the family standing on the corner with the cardboard sign? Or if we gave them the sticky pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in our ashtray to buy their own ramen as we drove our ramen home? Even those sticky coins are welcome in the basket as it passes by on Sunday – but those are also (and perhaps more and certainly more appreciated) welcome in the basket that looks a lot like the hungry Dad’s pocket as he holds out his hand when we drive by every day.
If giving in the offering plate or basket does not ease our conscience which is nudged by God, or we do it without thinking, or because we are “supposed to” or because we think everybody is watching, maybe the plate or basket should be somebody else’s pocket, and not the physical Church building or administration.
Feeding the hungry and serving the poor is much more important than paying for mowing the grass at the church, paving its parking lot, or remodeling the parish rectory. Supporting faith formation is more important than paying for the off-duty police officer at Mass or new decorations at the Church. When we take care of the hungry and the poor, these other material needs are provided for by God’s grace, who brings volunteers, donated material, and time to take care of these other projects because those donors see the spiritual needs being pastored and the faith needs being nurtured in a vibrant, loving Church.
Giving as our heart leads us to give helps our heart say, “God, I love you more than anything. I trust in You and Your Goodness. Take my pennies and multiply them, make it possible for others to be helped through my sacrifice. I do not live by bread alone – I live by your grace and blessing; make me a blessing to others.”
When we are good stewards of the three resources God gives us – Time, Talent, and Treasure – God multiplies them and makes great things come from the good that we offer.
DISCUSSION – What is Stewardship? Time, Talent, Treasure
Visit with your family and do not be afraid to break open the family finances and explore the family’s mission (or charism) as you answer these questions. Explore these topics over donuts after Mass, or before Mass in preparation. And certainly, talk about them around the dinner table regularly in an ongoing conversation about the family and each member working with God to fulfill His Plan.
What time can we offer to God? First, we must offer the time to pray every day. That should be first on our “to-do” list! When we make the time for God first thing, He gives us time to get the rest of His list done, GUARANTEED! How can we pray with each other before work, school, and the day ahead?
How do we spend our time? Is it for God’s glory or our own selfish activities? There is nothing wrong with recreation – we need it! But, we also need to make sure that our duties are done and that we’ve given God the time He deserves as Lord of our lives. And the recreation should be uplifting and virtuous, not immoral, indecent or sinful. And “time-off” is so much better when we do not have the guilt of knowing we should have done something else before zoning out! What time can our family offer?
What talent can we offer God? All the gifts we have are from God, so offering our gifts to and for Him shows that we acknowledge this Truth, and desire to glorify Him by using our gifts well and wholesomely, and when we share them back to God, we are multiplying what He has given us. Share your talent and gifts with others. Teach someone your skill, share your voice or musical ability with the congregation or on a street corner, give your computer talents away, drive someone to their doctor appointment, and encourage others to share their gifts, too. Each of us has a unique talent for this time and place: that is why we are here right now! Our talent is not ours to keep, but to share so as to help bring about God’s plan for Creation. Even if we think the only thing we can do is fold our eyelids inside-out, it is a talent that makes people laugh after they are grossed out. And God knows our world needs to laugh – which is why He gave us that gift! What talent can our family offer, and how?
What treasure can we offer God? Tithing means giving 10% to God from our earnings, before spending it on anything else, including taxes. Remember, 10% is from our gross income, not the net we get in our paycheck. If we earn $1000, we give $100, even though our paycheck may only say $800 after taxes and benefits are removed. Yes, that means giving back to God before we get it – so only $700 comes to us and our family in this example. Tithing is never easy, but it is simple.
IN REAL LIFE: For our family, after lots of practice and false starts, it is just what we do. When we were first starting out as a married couple 25 years ago, we asked our pastor how to do this since we were [Beth says] “very stretched on our budget”; [Kristofer says] “had $1200 in income and $1800 in rent and bills.” Then Father Mike Sis (now Bishop of San Angelo) suggested we give 5% financially to a charity (the parish, or other virtuous charity – he never insisted that the money go to the parish or diocese and he never checked), and give 5% of our time and talent in the meantime. Over the years, we’ve increased our financial giving beyond 10% to the Church and other Catholic-based apostolates as opportunity and prayer has led us, and we are sharing 44% of our awake time with Holy Owned and Operated while giving it all our talent. We have also seen the fruits of this giving in the times we’ve needed help paying bills or overcoming job and client losses. Oh, the miraculous stories we tell! Now, all of our financial giving to the Church goes to Bishop Mike and the Diocese of San Angelo, a proof of God rewarding Bishop Mike’s pastoral talent given to us, when he could have just told us to write him a check.
We plead with you to spend time in prayer, talk to your pastor, spiritual director, or another wise parish member you respect, to discern God’s best stewardship plan for you and your family – where you can give from your heart, mind, and soul to God for His glory. Make sure you are talking to someone who pastors you, instead of an administrator. We all know what the administrator will tell us to do – give ten percent to the parish or diocese and consider your duty done with your “love offering” – but a true pastor will guide you, knowing you and helping to nurture your time, talent, and treasure to best serve God, and nobody else, and they will help you see what fruits your sacrifices have borne. And do not be afraid to listen to what your children think the family should give to – they speak with wisdom in these matters! If you want to reach out to us, we’d be glad to help and offer suggestions of others who can help without any hidden or overt agenda. What treasure can our family offer, and how?
ACTIVITY – Give to God First: Unashamedly Asking You to Define Stewardship
Has Holy Owned and Operated helped? Have you gotten something of value that moves you toward eternity in Heaven by receiving something from HOO? If so:
Beth says, “We at Holy Owned and Operated are asking you to prayerfully consider giving to us as one of your chosen charities.
- We need your time – prayer time especially – please pray for us in your daily prayers as we work to accomplish the mission of helping anyone grow in their Catholic Faith, especially families. We need you time also letting us know how you use the resources we produce.
- We need your talent – some of these include web-maintenance and editing, translating material and website content into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Filipino and other languages.
- We need your treasure. HOO is Kristofer’s full-time work, he does not have a job or side gig. And HOO does not pay him. I work full-time for a biopharmaceutical company making two Covid-19 vaccines, but the income does not cover our family’s needs. To support the ministry of Holy Owned and Operated, as we know God wants us to, we need the resources you and your family and friends can give – time, talent, and treasure. So, He must want us to ask you for financial help!
This week, let us know how the Lord has worked through Holy Owned and Operated, Inc. in your faith-life. Contact us here!”
Kristofer says, “Beth is very gentle. I’m a bit more pointed:
- Give money to Holy Owned and Operated. We receive $670 in scheduled recurring monthly donations, if you include our family’s donation. That comes to $8,040 this year. With some one-off donations, we will reach about $9,800 in 2021. We have expenses that are more than that: Electricity, Internet access, web hosting, Zoom, video and podcast equipment and hosting, MailChimp, computer upkeep (we’ve had four computers crash beyond repair this year – all family computers “donated to the cause”, and we replaced one with a new $500 computer and the others with clunkers from the attic); donation credit card processing (it costs 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction, no matter the size of the donation). We attend the yearly John Bosco Conference at a cost of about $1200 so that we stay connected to the Vatican and provide you solid faith formation resources. And then there are the usual bits and pieces that swallow up what is left. Our goal operating budget is $120,000 a year, without any compensation to us. I work 68 hours a week on HOO, and Beth works 28, and neither of us take a salary. Our Boyz chip in for free about ten hours every week each, too.”
We know God will provide, as He always has. And you are a part of His provision. You have not read this far to walk away and think what we have said does not apply to you.
When it comes down to it, I look at the $250 our two sons donated to HOO in October and think: Nathaniel and Andrew, aged 14 and 16, gave this money before ever paying themselves from their lawnmowing business. And they donate their time and talent producing our video and podcast. And what do they get out of it that they haven’t gotten all their lives from our raising them Catholic? Presumably nothing of this world. And then I sit in stupor as I think of the other $250 they sent to Bishop Mike before taking any pay.
My third thought is: Why not you?
Donate to Holy Owned and Operated here. If you do not receive God’s blessings within two weeks of donating, I will refund your gift. That’s how confident I am that God rewards His Stewards.
Of course, as Beth points out, your time and talent are needed, too. Any volunteering you can do lifts a burden from me, personally, which allows me to have a side gig if necessary.
So please volunteer!”
If Holy Owned and Operated has not helped you or your family, please donate a little time, and perhaps talent, by letting us know what will help you.
DIG DEEPER – Listen and Learn More About Stewardship
We cover and define Stewardship, what it is and is not, and how to do it in two of our earliest podcast episodes. Donate some time to your own family and future by listening to these over the next few days.
LEARN MORE – Other Stewardship: Give to God First resources from Holy Owned and Operated:
Links open in a new tab or window according to your settings so that you can compare and continue in this lesson’s theme.
Page: Helping Anyone Grow in Their Catholic Faith
Podcast : Talents – Episode 17
Podcast: Family Prayer: What and How – Episode 08
Podcast: Family Prayer: Why – Episode 09
Podcast: Generosity – Episode 27
Video: Spirit in Life – Generosity
Video:Fruits of the Spirit: Love
TWMWU: To Each According to Need
TWMWU: Rising Very Early
Article: The Catholic Idea of Distributism?
How Do You Give to God First?
by Beth & Kristofer Cowles
Other Help on HOO
What do we do about Family interactions during the holidays?
In perhaps our most fun episode to date in terms of just rolling with it, Beth tries to make a point while Kristofer goes off into la la land.
Music, movie, cartoon, disco, philosophy, sitcoms and saint references seem to come easily when one person comes from a solid family of origin and another comes from the family that put fun into dysfunctional.
But, seriously, this is good stuff with some actual pointers. And even Larry gets into it…
LOTS of show notes with timestamps here, too.