Excerpted from an article by Daniel Conway, recipient of a 2019 award from the Catholic Press Association
God never stops giving! If we truly seek a deeper relationship with God, our response is to praise God for this great treasure and to demonstrate our gratitude by taking care of and sharing, God’s wonderful gifts every day. I began thinking about stewardship in the early 1990s, and had the great privilege of learning about stewardship from the late Seattle Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy, who at that time was chairman of the United States bishops’ ad hoc committee on stewardship, and the principal architect of the bishops’ pastoral letter, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.
Stewardship describes a Christian steward as “one who receives God’s gifts gratefully, cherishes and tends them in a responsible and accountable manner, and returns them with an increase to the Lord” (SDR, p. 9). Because God never stops giving, a Christian steward is constantly being invited and challenged, to receive, cherish, share, and return-with-increase the fruits of God’s abundant generosity. This is why stewardship is a lifelong responsibility. As long as God keeps giving, we are called to be open and responsive to all his gifts, both spiritual and material.
Stewardship is a source of deepening spirituality because it challenges us to let go of any false notions that we are somehow in control of our lives, our skills, and our talents, or our material possessions. We are not the authors of our own existence. We are not the owners of our spiritual and material gifts. We are stewards (caretakers or custodians) of what belongs exclusively and entirely to God.
God has given us the gift of life and the gift of intelligence. We are responsible for taking care of ourselves and developing our minds and growing in wisdom and understanding. We have been given the skills and abilities that allow us to earn a living, care for those we love, and contribute to the common good by our work and by our service to others in the Church and in our community. These gifts of time and talent make it possible for us to acquire the material possessions that we need and enjoy. All God’s gifts are good. They are meant to be used responsibly and shared generously with others.
Stewardship helps us develop what Archbishop Murphy called a lifestyle of sharing. When we respond to God’s goodness by growing in gratitude, responsibility, and generosity, we can experience the difference stewardship makes in our daily lives. As the archbishop said, stewardship invites us to reflect on what is most basic and fundamental in our lives—and to respond from the heart. Stewardship is not a program. It is a way of life.
Stewardship helps us recognize that the ordinary experiences of daily liv-ing are gifts from God to be cherished and shared with others. Since God never stops giving, our opportunities to respond from the heart are truly endless. That’s why Archbishop Murphy believed that stewardship is a way of life—and a lifelong source of grace and deepening spirituality.