What can be done with God’s gift of time?

In my last month’s West River Catholic article, I put forth a true definition of stewardship and its importance for each of us in answering our call to discipleship. My purpose in doing so is to begin to “prime the pump” for the implementation of a comprehensive stewardship process in the Diocese of Rapid City. A stewardship advisory committee and a clergy stewardship committee are currently developing this plan for implementation. As I mentioned last month, being good stewards is at the heart of discipleship and the New Evangelization.

Jesus said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing” (Lk 12:49). He wants all of his disciples to be “on fire” for him and the faith. This, too, is my desire because if this were to become the reality, not only would the parishes be transformed, but also the diocese would be transformed into “a new creation.” Vibrant, active stewards are the key to making parish communities come alive in faith. But in order for this to happen, we must change the default notion of stewardship that it is all about money. This way of thinking only diminishes what it means to be good stewards of what God has given to us.

As I wrote last month, Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call of being a disciple. Stewardship has the power to shape and mold our understanding of our lives and the way in which we live. Jesus’ disciples and 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 and are eager to use them to show their love for God and for one another. Discipleship and stewardship are linked realities and make up the fabric of Catholic life in which each day is lived intentionally in an intimate, personal relationship with the Lord.

No matter what age we are, if we are to fulfill our mission, our personal vocation, stewardship must be an integral part of that role. Therefore stewardship is not about money. Stewardship is about receiving all of God’s gifts (time, talent and treasure) gratefully, cultivating them responsibly, sharing them lovingly in justice with others, and then returning them with increase to the Lord. Stewardship can be likened to a three-legged stool. If one leg is broken or missing, then the stool will not be able to stand on its own. It will collapse.

In my WRC articles over the next three months, stewardship will be broken down into the three main parts, time, talent, and treasure, with this month’s article focusing on stewardship of time.

A true understanding of stewardship begins with taking care of and sharing the gift of time. Stewardship of time involves the realization that none of us “owns” time. We are all given the same amount of time (168 hours in each week), and planning a careful schedule in order to have time to work, to rest, to play, to serve and to pray is vital in the stewardship of our physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual lives. Remember that all we are and have is a gift from God to be received gratefully, cultivated responsibly, shared lovingly, and then returned to the Lord with increase. This includes the gift of time. In a busy society like ours, time is one of the most precious possessions we have. How we spend our time is perhaps the clearest indication of our progress in the life of a Christian discipleship.

What portion of our 24 hours each day or 168 hours each week are we giving back to God out of gratitude for this gift of time? How much of our time do we tithe to the Lord? The scriptures do not specifically require us to tithe our time, but the Lord does require us to give back the first fruits to him in all things. A faithful steward gives of his time because he or she has a great heart for God. Giving back a percentage of our time speaks to our desire to give God priority in our lives and to fulfill our call “to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves” (Mk 12:30-31).

People often say they don’t have enough time for all that is required of them. But we do because God has given it to us and he asks us to manage it so that we can give it back to him with increase. Yes, it can be challenging but not impossible. It is all in how we prioritize, beginning with the priority of time for our prayer life. I have always found that if prayer is a priority, we will have plenty of time for everything else. This is the generosity of God. Tithing time for prayer has real value!

So as we can see, discipleship is not about volunteering, and stewardship is not about money but surrendering our lives and all aspects of it to the Lord. I would hope that when we come to the end our of lives and meet the Lord face to face, we would all like to hear him say to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).