By Matt Potter
Back in the old days, when we could meet as groups and nobody wore a mask, I would talk to parishioners in our diocese about stewardship. The discussion would often turn away from the fact that stewardship is not a program, but a way of life; that stewardship is about one thing, which is everything; that stewardship encompasses our time, our talent and our treasure. Inevitably, the only survivor of these topics was money.
One of my older brothers once gave me a piece of sage advice: “Choose your battles.” When people only see the money component of stewardship, I can tell them how wrong they are and argue with them, which is not a battle that can be won. Or I can recognize their concerns and try to expand their thinking.
A way to answer objections that are based on incomplete information is to show empathy for the person objecting, to assure him or her that others are in the same boat, and that the truth is different than the perception. It’s called the “feel, felt, found” method: “I understand how you feel, and I know others who have felt the same way. But here is what I have found...”
Money drives things. In our day-to-day lives, we determine what kind of home we live in, car we drive, food we eat, things we do or job we have by the amount of money we have, spend and earn.
Money is also a memory-maker. Our memories are stoked by what was bought, where, when, how much it cost and what it did for us. That’s true whether it was a baseball glove, a bicycle or a great meal.
One memory for me that shaped my idea of stewardship is that of my mother, every Sunday before Mass, calling out to my father, “Dean, do you have $5 for the collection?”
Dad would reach into his wallet and give my mom a $5 bill. She put it in the collection envelope, and I would be given the responsibility of dropping it into the collection basket during the offertory. Week in, week out. Every Sunday. It was a lesson in stewardship that told me sharing what we had was the right thing to do.
I have told that story in our diocese dozens of times, yet a key point eluded me until very recently. I would mention the $5 and smile, thinking of that small sum driving my vision of stewardship of treasure. Only a few months ago, I wondered how much that $5 would amount to in today’s dollars.
I set my Wayback machine to 1965, when I was seven years old, to see the answer. I was shocked. That $5 gift in 1965 has the same value as $41 today. Over the course of a year that amounted to $2,132.
Wow. Even at seven-years-old, I knew we didn’t have that kind of money. To top it off, my dad was Methodist and didn’t go to Mass with us. It was a real, meaningful sacrifice.
“Stewardship is really just about money.” I understand how you feel. I know others who have felt the same way. But here is what I have found: Money is a component of stewardship. Stewardship is about returning to God what is His, with increase. It is not a program. It is a way of life. It is not about one thing, it is about everything.
What shaped your ideas of stewardship? I would love to hear from you. Write to me at email@example.com.
As always, thanks for reading.
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