Sunday, November 18, 2012

Responsible Stewardship

“… is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’” (Matthew 25:13-30). 

The Catholic Church teaches her children that they are accountable for what they do with every gift they receive, whether that gift is money, talent, or time. She teaches them that each of those things is given to them not only for their own benefit and advancement, but more importantly for the benefit and advancement of those around them. She also teaches her children that when they fail to be responsible stewards, when they are careless or reckless or selfish with the time, talents, or treasure they have received, they are guilty of having stolen from the needy. Parsimony, or the unwillingness to share our time, talents, and treasures with others, is considered a mortal sin – one which can separate us forever from fellowship with God.

Parents are entrusted by God with one of the greatest treasures He can offer.  Part of our job is to teach them how to live their lives in the service of God and others. If we are to be parents who imitate the Catholic Church in teaching our children, we should be teaching them how to be responsible stewards of everything that is entrusted to them.

Gratitude

Responsible stewardship begins with gratitude because it begins with recognizing that everything in your life actually belongs to God. It is not truly yours. You are simply its caretaker, placed in charge of it for the benefit of yourself and others. This is why we will be held accountable for how we spent and used every single thing that came into our lives.

We show that we understand and appreciate the treasures in our charge by the way that we take care of them. Teaching our children to take care of their bodies, their clothes, their rooms, and to help with chores is putting that gratitude into action. After all, if we are grateful for what we have, we will naturally take care of it.

We show that we understand and appreciate the time given to us by the way that we organize it. It should be organized and prioritized so that Christ is first, then family, then everything else in our lives. Responsible stewardship of our time does not mean that we cram our days so full of activities that we collapse into bed exhausted each night. It means that we pick and choose carefully from among the various ways to spend our time so that it is the most productive and fruitful. Most people can accomplish 5-6 main projects a day. If we work 8 hours a day, that work takes up 4 out of those 5 projects, leaving us time for 1 or at most 2 big projects a day, depending on how much time per day we spend travelling.

Service

A portion of responsible stewardship is putting our time, our talent, and our treasure in the service of others. We can teach our children to do this by encouraging them to volunteer to work on community projects, contributing a portion of their earned money to charitable causes, and using their talents in a way that benefits others.

My son and I are both gifted with beautiful voices. We both sing in the church choir, giving back to others what God has so generously given into our care. In this way, the church benefits from the talent and we are encouraged to work on and improve our talent. As a family, we put our treasure at the service of those who are homeless. We take in those we can as we can, helping them to get back on their feet by providing them shelter, food, and even clothing if necessary while they look for work or pursue their education.

Accountability

The Catholic Church does hold all of her children accountable for how responsible they have been in stewardship through the Sacrament of Confession. She urges her children to examine their lives daily to be sure that they have done all they could to serve God and others with the time, talent, and treasure they have received. She instructs them to come to her when they have failed to do these things so that she can help them overcome the obstacles that stand in their way.

While younger children tend to respond well to things like chore charts and other visual representations that help them to see their stewardship activities, older children should be encouraged to journal how they spend their time, talent, and treasure to be sure that they are using it all wisely. This also helps them to see where they are wasting resources and what things tend to distract them from giving their best.

Conclusion

As parents, we are called to be good stewards of the children entrusted to our care. Teaching them to be responsible stewards is one way we fulfill this calling. Responsible stewardship is a lifelong habit that begins with gratitude, includes service to others, and requires a level of accountability. The benefit of responsible stewardship is a life that is lived to its fullest.

I hope you have enjoyed this chapter of Catholic Parenting: What the Catholic Church Teaches Us About Parenting.  If you are just finding this series, you can read the introduction and catch up on the other chapters by clicking the link above. Please join us tomorrow for Chapter 37: Courting the Heart.

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