Grace and Gratitude, Issue 85

April 21, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation

The Christian life is shaped by gratitude – gratitude for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is by God's grace that we receive the gift of our own lives, and so we are called to shape the whole of our lives by our grateful response. “The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program, the annual program is reduced to the means to achieve an end, and the end is reduced to the church budget. “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us. 

When we hear the word “stewardship,” our thoughts go straight to money. Stewardship is connected to the season when members are asked to indicate their level of financial support for the church's ministry and mission during the coming year. Although we may add “time and talent” to our stewardship program, everyone knows that “treasure” is the name of the game.
It may come as a surprise to discover that the New Testament does not use the words stewardship and steward to talk about money. In a letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul asks them to think of the apostles as “servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries” (1 Cor. 4:1). What in the world are the mysteries of God, and what does it mean for congregations and their members to steward them?
For Paul, the mysteries of God are found in the proclamation of the good news of what God has done and is doing in Christ. “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). Indeed, for Paul “the knowledge of God's mystery is Christ himself” (Col. 2:2). In the New Testament, the mystery (musterion) is not something “mysterious, unknowable, and secret,” but rather the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God made known in Jesus Christ. The more we know about God's mysteries, the more we know there is to know!

We are not apostles, but like Paul we have been sent to proclaim the good news of what God has done and is doing in Christ. And so, like Paul, we are “servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries.” In this deep sense, every time is stewardship season, a time when every congregation (and denomination) must ask itself how it exercises its stewardship of the proclamation that Christ is crucified and risen, a proclamation that is the best possible news for a world in need. Stewardship of our money is easy, and only a small part of our stewardship of God's mysteries. “Moreover,” says Paul, “it is required of stewards that they be trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:2). The gospel has been entrusted to the church, and the church is called to be worthy of the gift.

Featured Mission Partner: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Presbyterians have engaged in the work of Bible translation for generations. Helping people gain access to God's word in the language they understand is essential to fulfilling the Great Commission – and the Great Commandment. Hundreds of Presbyterian congregations continue to help carry out that legacy today by supporting Wycliffe Bible Translators, the world's largest ministry for Bible translation, with their prayers, time, and gifts.
Want to know more about ways the Presbyterian Foundation can help you and your congregation? Contact your regional Ministry Relations Officer. Locate your officer online or call us at 800-858-6127, option #3 and we'll put you in touch.