The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 25, 2000 Issue
Counselor's Corner

Handle wisely the gifts you get

Stewardship means being responsible for what the Lord give us

By John Miller

QUESTION: When we attend Mass, we sometimes hear our pastor talking about stewardship when the issue of parish finances comes up. As a financial counselor for the Green Bay Diocese, can you shed any light on what stewardship means?

ANSWER: Stewardship refers to time, talent, and treasure, but I will limit my comments to your question relating to financial stewardship. A steward is someone who has been entrusted to manage something that doesn't belong to him. When all is said and done, everything we have comes to us as gifts of God. If we think of the money we have as having been given to us by our Creator, it is quite interesting how he's instructed us to use it: "Spend some, save some, invest some, and give some."

There are five stewardship principles which pertain to money and money management. These five principles are: Responsibility, Accountability, Moderation, Discipline and Resourcefulness.

Our Lord desires that we be responsible with the gifts he has given or entrusted to us. He wants us to make sure that we use his gifts to feed our families, keep our homes warm in winter, and honor our obligations to our creditors. In essence, our Lord is saying to all of us, "Be responsible with the gifts I give you."

The second principle of accountability refers to having a system in place where we know how much we can afford to spend on goods and services. If we do not have a spending plan to manage our resources, it is nearly impossible for us to be accountable, because we are probably overspending in some areas and not spending enough in others. We would then not be able to show how we are spending, saving, investing, or giving the gifts that have been entrusted to us.

The next principle, moderation, is important to a financial counselor. Many people in this country know little about moderation; however, they know a great deal about excess. Our Lord tells us to use moderation with the gifts he has given us and as financial counselors, we believe that all spending should be done in moderation. There really is no purpose in living on a budget that is too restrictive and likewise, there is no purpose in living on a budget if we continue to be excessive in our spending. Neither of these will work.

The fourth principle of stewardship is discipline. All of us are bombarded constantly with the message, "Buy now, pay later," making it extremely easy for us to become overextended or deeply in debt. Advertisers are continually trying to create "voids" in our lives or to convince us that our wants are really our needs. Our grandparents could give all of us a lesson in discipline since their motto was, "If I don't have the cash to buy it, then I'll wait until I do." While credit can be a wonderful thing, credit is also a means to motivate spending and does little to encourage us to follow the Lord's guidelines to exercise discipline in using the gifts he provides us.

The final principle of stewardship is resourcefulness. Since many clients who seek help with their finances present themselves with an excessive amount of debt, the only way for them to begin the road to a debt-free life is for them to become more resourceful in meeting the needs of their family. Resourcefulness refers to being able to find creative ways to meet our needs with less money. It also refers to conserving energy as well as all of God's other natural resources.

In summary, when your pastor speaks of stewardship, I hope that this provides you with a better understanding of what it really means in our Lord's eyes. He has provided all of us, his children, with many gifts, and he simply wants all of us to be good managers or stewards in return. As far as finances in the church are concerned, it is not unrealistic for all of us to give serious consideration to returning a portion of God's gifts to him so that his work can continue touching the lives of many.

(Miller is a financial counselor with Catholic Social Services, Manitowoc.)

Send questions to Counselor's Corner, c/o Catholic Social Services, P.O. Box 23825, Green Bay 54305-3825. All questions will be answered in print or through the mail. Identities will remain confidential.

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