Sooner or later it comes to the question, how much to keep and how much to give away.
The fruits of our labors are to be cherished and cultivated. The more we have, the greater is the accountability in managing and responsibility in multiplying the gifts with which we are entrusted.
This means making a conscious choice, in a careful way, to become a good steward. Making it intentional. As the parable of the ten talents instructs, we should not bury our talents in the ground, but invest wisely and return them with an increase. To be a good steward means a gift should be thoughtful and planned.
Finally, all giving should be proportionate. One way to look at it is this. If a household decides to give 10% of its household income, the 5-4-1 rule of thumb is helpful. First, 5% stays in the parish; then 4% goes to other charitable causes; and 1% goes to the larger Church helping others throughout the Archdiocese.
Making a stewardship decision – how much to give and when – is made more difficult by the obstacle of a dominant secular culture that encourages us to focus on ourselves and our own pleasures.
Our hearts are shaped by so many influences in our culture. Catholics are part of the mainstream American culture. They have experienced the advantages of American society and can be affected adversely by it. Nonetheless, a good steward will see this abundance as an opportunity to participate in the creative energy of God’s church.
Pope Benedict XVI in opening the Year of Faith in 2012 extended the invitation – let your heart be shaped by grace. Invite people into this life of grace. Energized stewardship habits will follow.
A GIFT THAT IS INTENTIONAL, PLANNED AND PROPORTIONATE
It is no secret that it is difficult to ask people to give more of their time and their treasure. Prepare a step-by-step method through homilies, bulletin articles and parish website information to teach people to be intentional, planned and proportionate in their parish giving. Every family and household already goes through this process when deciding to buy a car or cell phone plan. Invite them to do the same for the parish.
God gives us this divine-human workshop, this world and Church of ours. (USCCB, To Be a Christian Steward, 2013.) First a person must develop a disciplined intention to give. Truly this comes from the Holy Spirit. Invite people to pray for the gift of a generous heart.
The time is never right to do something difficult. Have a focused time for initiating and renewing a stewardship commitment. Ask the question: Are you making a true sacrifice? Can you give more? If no, can you be more active in prayer? More generous with your time?
See helpful ways to create a plan, set goals, create a timeline and implement best practices.
Imagine that you received a letter today saying you are about to come into a large inheritance–surely excitement would overtake you. One of your first thoughts would probably be, “How much?” As believers, we know how much our inheritance is – life itself and eternal life in the future. Yet these words can seem hollow if our faith is weak.
Giving everything away, abandoning our lives to God, forsaking all for the Kingdom . . . this calling is for a few among us. Most of us are asked only to give away the first fruits of our labors, only a small portion of what we have. In this way, we are all asked to make a gift of time and treasure proportionate to our means and calling.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful in small matters, therefore I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. (Matthew 25:21)