What do I own and what owns me?

In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 12, Jesus shares a parable which always makes me nervous because of its
challenge. I always wonder if I am living up to the challenge. He says, “Much will be required of the
person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” I
believe that we all have been entrusted with much, and perhaps some have been entrusted with more.
Each of us has to figure out which category we fit in — the much or the more. These are the only two
categories which Jesus mentions, perhaps the reason being that we have all been given much.

As mentioned, discipleship is not about volunteering and stewardship is not about money, but
surrendering the totality of our lives to the Lord. Answering the call to discipleship is always an option.
To become a disciple of Jesus is a choice. When we embrace a life of stewardship, it shapes and molds
our understanding of who we are as disciples. Christian stewards recognize God as the origin of life, the
giver of freedom and the source of all things. Jesus’ disciples are grateful for the gifts they have received
— time, talent and treasure — and are eager to use them to show their love for God and for one another.
Discipleship and stewardship are linked realities that create the fabric of Catholic life whereby each day
is lived intentionally in an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord, whereby our heart says, “I don’t
own anything. All belongs to the Lord.” In other words, stewardship is living out the Eucharist that we
celebrate. Therefore it is both spiritual and practical.

Last month in our reflection on stewardship, I focused on the stewardship of talent. We continue our
reflection this month on the stewardship of treasure. If stewardship is planned giving and does not leave
giving to chance, then it challenges us to plan. It asks us to deliberately appraise what we are doing with
our time, our talent, and our treasure.

The Bible devotes about 500 verses to prayer; less than 500 verses to faith; but more than 2000 verses to
money and possessions. It seems that the use of our possession and treasure is very important in the eyes
of God. Each of us must ask the fundamental questions regarding the gifts and resources we possess.
“What do I own and what owns me? Have I become a slave to the very gifts and resources that I think I
‘own’ or do I dare to take the risk and recognize God as the real source of who I am and what I possess?
Can I trust in a good and gracious God to be with me in all that occurs in my life?”

God has given us everything in our lives that is good, including our treasure. We have earned nothing.
Though we might be paid a good salary by the company we work for, it has come as the result of the
brains and the abilities God has given us. Have we earned those? They were freely given to us by God. We have developed them and used them; we must be stewards of them, so that we can make a difference
in the world and not for our own selfish purposes.

A life of stewardship is accepting all graciously (with gratitude); cherishing them and tending them in a
responsible manner; sharing them in justice and love with others; and returning them to the Lord with

Stewardship of treasure implies that we give, not because we feel obligated by the needs of others, the
needs of the church, or this institution or that charity, but because we are grateful to God for what God
has given us. We therefore respond to God’s call, thus having our own “need to give” fulfilled. It is
giving from the heart. It’s all in the attitude and one’s understanding of what it means to be good

Because stewardship is planned giving, we assess our treasure and then make a conscious decision as to
how much will become the “first fruits” that we return to God through our sacrificial giving. Statistics
show that Catholics give a smaller percentage of their incomes to the church or other charities than any
other denomination. How many people have given the same amount for the last 5 years, 10 years or 20
years, though their income has gone up? This means their sacrifice has gone down.

We often give God what is left over after we have taken care of our own personal wants and needs.
Whereas being a good steward means we give back to God the first fruits so that God can continue his
creative work in the world. From a biblical standpoint, ten percent is considered the first fruits. People
have many reasons as to why they don’t give more.

But the stewardship way of life is not about giving gifts equal to that of our neighbor, but in giving an
equal sacrifice. I would suspect it doesn’t matter to God regarding the amount of dollars given, number
of hours spent or amount of talent provided. God looks at our gifts as an extension of the love and
obedience with which they are given, and the proportion of resources from which they come. In other
words, God looks at our hearts. Faithful disciples prayerfully reflect upon what God has given them and
trusts that God will provide perhaps not for all their wants, but certainly for all their needs. As Catholic
stewards, we are called to a life of sacrificial giving. The greater our trust, the greater our sacrifice!
What we give back to God in gratitude is to be our sacrifice. Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice. How do
we imitate him?

There are three parts to stewardship — time, talents and treasure. Take away the stewardship of time
and talent — a life of stewardship collapses. Take away the stewardship of treasure — a life of
stewardship also collapses. A life of stewardship is counter-cultural to our materialistic, individualistic
society. You and I are called to be caretakers, not owners, of our time, talents and treasures. “Much will
be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted
with more.”

In conclusion, from the book of Proverbs: “Honor the Lord with your substance and with the first fruits
of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine”
(Proverbs 3:9-10).