Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. — Matthew 6:19-21
As a relatively young Friend, I have often assumed that discussions about “stewardship” were mostly irrelevant to me because we commonly use the word to refer to the care and consideration of financial assets. It is easy for younger and less financially established people to assume that we have no real role in stewarding the resources of the Meeting. When it is conceived solely in economic terms, it is tempting to regard stewardship as the sole preserve of the older and wealthier members of our community.
But stewardship is about so much more than money! While financial stewardship is crucial, the work of the church is rooted in something much deeper than our material holdings and strategic plans. No matter how much we might desire to, we are incapable of “building the Kingdom of God” by throwing money at it. Without the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, our human plans and organizations are dead, no matter how extensive our economic resources might be.
Of course, Christ does provide for our material needs. We cannot live by bread alone — but we do need bread! Nevertheless, the most important object of our stewardship is only visible to the eye of faith. The Holy Spirit endows each of us with a special set of spiritual gifts that activate and enliven material reality. These invisible gifts are the holy passions that God implants in each of us. They are the special ways in which we are called to work together as members of Christ’s body.
The Holy Spirit raises up a variety of gifts, such as teaching, healing, discernment, prophecy, administration, exhortation, musical ministry, pastoral care and hospitality. As a people seeking to follow in the way of Jesus, we find hope in his living presence among us. He reveals and activates these spiritual gifts so that we can participate in his ongoing ministry to the world. These spiritual resources are essential to the health of our communities. They must be nurtured, released and supported if we are to thrive as a community of disciples.
This is good news for younger Friends, and for those of us with less material wealth. Our gifts, as small and hidden as they can seem at times, are crucial to the functioning of Christ’s body! When we recognize the fundamental importance of these spiritual gifts that God has placed in our communities, financial stewardship is placed in perspective. We come to see that economic resources are a gift from God, too — a gift that is meant to release all the other gifts God has given us as a community. When we are faithful, the material wealth of our communities can serve as fertilizer for the seeds of Spirit-led service to the world.
What does it look like when we steward the gifts of the Spirit? How does our life together change when we treat our material assets as a gift from God for a greater purpose, not simply as a means for our own material comfort? What would help us to view our financial assets as tools to release and empower the gifts of the Spirit among us? What would it take for us to come into the same life and power that inspired the first generation of Christians to pool their material resources and release the gifts of the Kingdom in their midst?