St. Ambrose of Milan wisely said, “We are born into this world naked, we leave it without a cent, we are buried without our inheritance.”
I heard about a man who was rich and he wanted to take it all with him when he died. He wanted all his wealth made into gold bricks, put into a suitcase, and then into his casket upon his death. As he approached the gates of heaven, St. Peter met him there and asked about the suitcase’s contents. With pride the man opened up the suitcase and the gold bars shined beautifully! St. Peter looked at the man and asked, “Why in the world would you bring a suitcase full of asphalt.” Of course, the streets of heaven are paved with Gold.
What is wealth in God’s eyes? Who is truly rich? And what is the proper use of earthly wealth?
The Book of Proverbs says that the man who finds a worthy wife has an unfailing prize whose value is far greater than pearls. I am a very wealthy man, even if I have nothing more in this life than my wife, Jill. Those things that I treasure most in this life is our God, our Church, my wife, and my children. Proverbs lets us know that doing good, showing kindness, being generous, and having a fear of the Lord are worthy of praise–more valuable than any treasure. True treasure are the relationships that we have with others, and more valuable than any earthly treasure is to do good, show kindness, be generous, and have respect for God. And that is the appropriate use of wealth. All throughout Scripture, we find that earthly treasure is a never ending pursuit…it’s fool’s gold. It promises peace, happiness, and freedom but often brings only headaches and poisons the soul.
In the parable today Jesus speaks of people with nothing–slaves–who were given great wealth. The wealth did not belong to them at all, but rather to their wealthy master, who gave them his wealth while he went on a journey. As we heard, the two who used that wealth to earn more wealth were praised, but the one who buried it was reprimanded.
Of course, we are those stewards, only God is not on the journey, we are. We come into this life with nothing, and as we journey through it, we are given a certain amount of talent–a certain amount of earthly treasure. Treasure that we have been given to be used for God’s purposes; to be used at the service of ourselves and others. To be holy is to be separate, set aside, for God’s purposes–like holy water or holy oil. It has been set aside to be used entirely for God’s purpose. We are called to be holy, and we are also called to be good stewards by making portion of our income holy too.
When the church speaks of Stewardship we are referring to 4 basic principles that guide our use of earthly treasure in support of the Church and its ministers, as well as the world and its needs. When we follow these principles we make a portion of our earthly wealth holy.
The 1st Principle is that we give the Lord a portion of our income. That is what we call a tithe. A title literally means a tenth. This is what scripture calls our “first fruits.” When we look at our monthly income, the first thing we do, before anything else, is set aside 10% for God and God’s purposes. And that 10% rolls right into our 2nd Principle, that our gift should be a sacrifice.
We want to be like the woman who Jesus praised for giving her 2 coins–she gave sacrificially, as it was all that she had. If we are doing stewardship right, we should pray over our budget, give God first dibs, and only then see what is left for our purposes. That’s what it means to believe that all we have is from God, and that we are but stewards.
The 3rd principle is that we make our contribution known to our parish by using our envelopes or online giving. The parish has a budget to balance. It hires, pays salaries, keeps the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We call OLA our home and are called to announce our intentions for the coming year and then do the hard work each month of giving sacrificially and joyfully.
Finally, the 4th principle is that we give 5% to our parish, and then 5% to charities that we find meaningful and important. Our family supports the parish and it is our joy to support the Wheelchair foundation, Food for the Poor, CFCA/Outbound, N.E.T. ministries, the local men’s shelter, and a variety of others that come up throughout the year.
I think when we spend our wealth only on things of the earth, then we are basically like that unfaithful steward who buried his master’s wealth. God does not want our earthly wealth to remain in the earth. Our parish and the world needs Christian generosity and love. Christians make the world a better place. We create beautiful churches and we take care of the poor. We always have. We always will. But it requires courageous faith to commit to what God is doing in our community and in the world. Our parish is asking you to put your money where your faith is. Join us.