Stewardship, tithing, giving, annual pledge: defined
Adapted from Lisa Fischbeck, Episcopal Cafe
Stewardship is about a whole lot more than money. Simply put, Stewardship can be understood as “all that we have, and all we do, all the time.” It is rooted in the belief that who we are and what we have and the life we live, and the world in which we live is all a gift from God, or even that it all belongs to God: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,” says the Psalmist. And we are stewards of it.
A steward is a manager, a person who has charge of the household or possessions of another. In our case, we are the stewards of God’s household, God’s possessions, whether nature, children, buildings, time, talent, or money. If we realize that all the stuff of our world belongs to God, and we see ourselves as stewards of it, then we hear a call to mindfully use it as God would have us use it. All of it.
Biblically, tithing comes from the spirit of Jacob’s promise in Genesis 28:20-22:
‘If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one-tenth to you.’
It is quite clever actually, because giving away 10% of our income each week or each year is just enough to be really challenging, even painful. Tithing is a discipline. It is also an extraordinary faith statement, a way of reminding ourselves that God is God, that we are God’s people, and that God provides for us, even when the household budget is tight.
But the tithe is limiting. Limiting in its focus – money – and limiting in its amount – 10%. The ultimate goal is not 10%, but rather that we have a spirit of abundant generosity with all that we have, with all that we do, all the time.
Ideally, we give ourselves to God, 100%. And we also give generously from the resources we have been given. We are God’s stewards, the means, the conduits, if you will, for God’s stuff to be used for God’s purpose.
Giving to the Local Church
But stewardship and tithing are by no means limited to the local church. In truth, the church is in real competition with other good and faithful organizations for financial support.
Faithful stewardship includes generous and abundant giving to those people and institutions that give witness to God’s compassion, God’s justice and God’s transformative power. St. Paul’s strives, as a local church, to clearly exemplify and communicate the ways in which we utilize our resources towards this work. And we trust that we best accomplish it through the generous giving, not only of money, but also of time, skill sets, thoughtful opinion, prayerful discernment, and gracious leadership of our church members. For this reason, we believe that St. Paul’s is a primary beneficiary of our members’ giving, though not necessary the only one.
Making a pledge
Pledging has to do with commitment and with budget planning. To pledge to a particular organization is to make a commitment to support that organization. When people are able to estimate their giving ahead of time and pledge a particular amount, then the leadership of the church is able to determine a budget and ministry plan for the year, and establish certain commitments and expectations.
Pledging can be a means of faithful stewardship when the church acknowledges the realities of the lives of its members. In times of uncertainty of income and increasing debt, the most faithful expression of the church is to help individuals best discern the stewardship that God has entrusted them with to the glory of God. The church, over and above calling for a pledge, is entrusted with the call to healing and wholeness for all God’s creation.