My name is Jaime Heras, Hispanic Region director for the Southern California Conference. One of our five core values as a conference is stewardship. We have defined it in the following way:
Stewardship. We are spiritual contributors not spiritual consumers. The church does not exist just for us. We exist for the world. We will give and manage our resources with excellence for this mission.
Our society and culture are surrounded by consumerism. We see it everywhere. When we go to the stores, everything is geared toward getting the best offer, buying the best product for the best price. While we are driving, our eyes are entertained by the best billboard, trying to convince us of the best promotion. Our computers, our phones, even the yard sales across the street — everything is about how to get the best deal. The constant message is buy, buy, buy. You need it. You deserve it.
Our garages are full of things, and yet we think we need more. We want more. As a church, we want to send a different message, a message based on to attributes of God's character, His generosity, and His example of service. Let's consider the first attribute: His generosity.
We can see God's generous giving in creation from the very beginning. God, the extravagant giver par excellence, not only created this world in beauty and abundance for us, but He left traces of his generosity in nature to point us in the direction of giving. Just to mention a few: The lovely birds; they give us their happy songs. The beautiful flowers; they give us are lovely. The trees with their rich foliage give us their fresh shadows.
If we see nature carefully, we cannot but find the example of God's generous giving. And that generosity sustains us even today. The Psalmist expressed it masterfully by saying, "The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing" (Psalm 145:15-16 NIV).
As a church, we want to follow God's example of generosity. Therefore, we want to emphasize giving more than receiving, giving more than buying, contributing more than taking. Let me suggest three areas where we can give.
First, we can give our time. Volunteering can make a difference. There are many agencies that are needing someone to volunteer and the church is one of them. Think about giving, giving more of your time to benefit others.
Second, we can give of our talents. There are things that only you can do. There are beautiful talents that are needed everywhere. Play that violin, paint that art. Give that speech. Fix that part that is broken. Heal that wound. Your talents in God's hands can make an eternal difference.
Third, we can give of our resources. We always say it is not how much you give, but the spirit with which you give. However, I think both aspects are important. Gift with the right spirit, but give more. Much more money is a blessing when we give in. John Wesley said it in this way, "Money is an excellent gift of God answering the noblest and in the hands of his children. It is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gifts to the traveler and the stranger. Where to lay his head. Buy it. We may supply the place of a husband to the widow and of a father for the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed. A means of health to the sick. Of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind as feet to the lame Yea, a lifter up from the gate of death."
The second attribute of God is this example of service. God is never a bystander only. His constantly in action serving and certainly the best example is the life of Jesus.
When we observe His life, we discover that He came to serve when there was no servant to wash the feet. He became the servant All his miracles were a display of selfless service. Look, set it in this way. In the book of Acts 10:38, we read, "He went around doing good in healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with him as a church."
We want to follow Jesus's example of service. We want to be a blessing to the world. Individually, we want to actively serve. We want to be in action, not in passivity. We want to serve selflessly. I think God's invitation for us today is to live a life of extravagant giving and selfless service. Life then makes a difference, a life that actively cares for others.
That is true stewardship.