To become a community of stewards requires a high level of trust between members of a congregation and their leaders. Today we took up Matthew 6:24-34, Christ’s encouragement to trust in God who knows all our needs. Merton, and other monastics, speak of learning the discipline of trust through obedience to a superior, even when that superior makes inferior demands.
Most of us are not monastics. Obedience is something to be rendered only provisionally. Trust has to be earned, not given. Our leaders are especially suspect since we don’t really know what they are doing with our tithes in those late night meetings of theirs. That goes for God too. We are not unlike the Israelites called to return to Jerusalem after years of exile in Babylon. It doesn’t matter what God says through Isaiah about bringing them home to a land of milk and honey. They don’t trust him, and they are not going to trust him until they drink the milk and taste the honey. We are not going trust God, except through hypocritical assertions, until we see some evidence that God can be trusted. Whether God can ever find us to be trustworthy seems irrelevant.
We, like they, are equally inclined to distrust our leaders. It’s odd how even a small congregation can separate the us who sit in the pews from the them who are on council, vestry or session.
If trust is an essential element of stewardship, it’s no wonder it’s such a hard sell.
Maybe we should just give up on stewardship altogether. It’s a losing battle. Maybe should concentrate on helping congregations learn how to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” It is in that striving that we will learn to trust God, and trust, at least provisionally, one another. Then maybe stewardship will take care of itself.
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