Stewardship: Putting faith into action

Faith. What is it? What does it mean in our lives? How does it change us, motivate us or inspire us? Sadly, many of us may not have an answer for these questions. Faith is something we leave forgotten on a shelf until a time of sorrow, fear or need prompts us to take it down, brush away the dust and say, “What would I do without my faith?” 

This year Pope Benedict XVI would like to change that. He has declared a Year of Faith beginning Oct. 11 — the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It is his goal that all of us rediscover the joy of living our faith. Since living requires action, true faith must lead us to action. 

In the pope’s apostolic letter, Porta Fidei (“Door of Faith”), which declared this Year of Faith, he quotes St. James, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:14-17). 

Pope Benedict is asking us to take our faith off the shelf and put it into action. We are called to stop saying, “What would I do without my faith?” and start asking ourselves “What am I doing with my faith?” We are challenged to live our faith through our actions. Faith in action is stewardship. 

Stewardship is not always a popular word. Many think stewardship is just an appeal for more time, talent or treasure. However, true stewardship is not a fundraising or volunteer recruitment programs. True stewardship is a way of life. It is a spirituality that calls us to deepen our relationship with God, truly live the Gospel, and realign the priorities of our lives. True stewardship is exactly the faith in action that St. James wrote about and the pope invites us to embrace this year. 

Perhaps it would be easier to see how we live our faith through stewardship by considering stewardship as a pyramid of 10 blocks. Each block represents one of the key aspects of faithful stewardship.  

At the base of the pyramid are the four foundational blocks. These are the tenets that we must have in place in our lives before we can truly be God’s stewards. The next level of the pyramid contains the three action blocks. These are the actions and characteristics that mark a true steward.  

On the third level we find the transforming blocks. As we embrace stewardship, we discover that our lives change. We look at things differently and our priorities shift. At the very top of the pyramid is the reward block, the reason why we make stewardship a lifelong expression of our faith and our love for God. 

Susan Erschen is the former director of stewardship education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the author of OSV’s “Understanding Stewardship” pamphlet ($14.95 for 50).

Foundational blocks 

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Action blocks 

schools
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Transforming blocks 

Today in our over-materialistic world the question is often asked: “Do we own our possessions or do they own us?” We get so caught up in having and caring for so much that we miss out on the most important things in life — especially spending time with God, with family, with friends and with community. Stewardship compels us to simplify our lives. As we are transformed by our active giving, we begin to realize our calendars are overbooked and our lives are too cluttered. We start to let go of things that have no meaning so we have the time and the resources for the love, compassion, charity and sharing that matter most. We slow down. We get off the “fast track.” We stop striving for more of everything and find peace in knowing God has already given us all we need. We learn to both enjoy and share the blessings we already have instead of always thinking about what else we still want.
 

Reward block