Good morning. This is the third time over the past number of years that I’ve had the privilege of standing up here and sharing personally about what stewardship means for me. But this is the first time I’ve done so since having kids, and so when Father Martin prompted me to answer the questions, “What stories about money did I learn growing up, and do I still want to tell those stories or might I choose to replace them?” I started to think explicitly about which stories about money I am telling and want to tell my own kids.
My parents managed to somehow communicate two messages about money, both of which I still believe to be true and which are somewhat contradictory. And since parenting decision-making in general feels like walking a balance beam, why should this decision – what stories will we tell about money – be any different? So the two things I try to balance, in imitation of the balance my parents struck are:
First, money is neutral. Having more of it doesn’t make you more worthy of love. Asking for financial help doesn’t weaken you, doesn’t add “screw-up” to your identity. Giving financial help shouldn’t make you more powerful. The more you can give shouldn’t impact the influence you can have.
And second, money is deeply personal and how you choose to use your money says as much about your values than anything. My parents had this funny rule for us when we were kids, that in order to participate in communion we had to first prove our responsibility by showing we could sit through most of a church service holding our offering coins without dropping them. What I think was going on was quite practical – a dropped quarter makes no mess, a dropped cup of grape juice (we were Baptist) does. But I’m glad that with our kids at Grace we’ve flipped that. They receive first, they participate in the Eucharist, but we haven’t yet given them their own money, or the choice about how to use or where to give their money. And that’s because with that decision comes great responsibility to stick to one’s values when it comes to money…which can be really hard.
And finally, if how we choose to use our money is deeply personal and value-driven, then how we choose more specifically to “give” our money is even more deeply spiritual and values-based. The theologian William Cavanagh writes, “In a capitalist economy, the recipient is passive and the giver experiences giving as a removal of property. In the divine economy of gift, the giver is in the gift, goes with the gift.” This is never more clearly demonstrated than in the eternal giving of the Son and the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, “eternally begotten of the Father” and the Holy Spirit, “who proceeds from the Father and Son.” Inherent in the triune God is the gift of being, and we mirror this when we give.