When I was just past 30, having been in graduate school for a long time and finally getting on with my adult life, I moved into what would be my last, but largest, apartment while living in Manhattan. It was large and felt like it could be home for years and years. And it was when I moved into this apartment that I bought my first whole set of kitchenware—new, not used.
Until that purchase, I either ate out or did minimal cooking with used pots and pans inherited from this or that friend. In my mind, the purchase of my own kitchenware signaled a commitment finally to be an adult. You would think that signing the lease on a large Manhattan apartment would have done that, but it was this smaller, seemingly insignificant act that did.
What might this have to do with Christian stewardship? I will not write anything you haven’t heard before—that stewardship is about being grateful for what God has given us, that in response we give back our time, talent and money to further God’s kingdom, the work of the Church and the needs of the parish. All this is true and important. But, paradoxically, I learned to feel gratitude by giving, not the other way around.
I committed to my adult life when I made that purchase of pots and pans. Likewise, committing to stewardship of the parish in time, talent and money signaled my commitment to my parish life as well as my spiritual life. Growing up Episcopalian, pledging was expected. It is what adults do when they cared about the work of the parish. At the time, such expectations seemed contrived. However, committing to the purchase of those pots and pans brought to me a sense of permanence about my adult life in an unexpected way. So too has my commitment to supporting the life of the Church and parish brought a sense of permanence of my life as a Christian.
During periods when I have been saturated with work, or when was less than flush because I was in graduate school, I suspended my stewardship. But when I could return to giving of myself (financially and in other ways), I became aware that my spiritual life changed for the better. Stewardship became a spiritual practice, not just a practical one. And spiritual practice, it turns out, requires regularity and commitment.
The pots and pans were both a practical and spiritual commitment to an adult life. So it is with giving to the Church—it’s a commitment to an ongoing spiritual practice of gratitude and the commitment to be connected. It has been the act of giving that evokes a greater sense of gratitude.
You should have seen how I felt when I committed to my first new sofa!
Kevin Daugherty Hook