This is one of a two-part series on living differently through faithful stewardship.
When people join a United Methodist church, they make specific promises. Among them are to be loyal to Jesus Christ through the church, to do everything possible to strengthen the church's ministries and to participate faithfully in those ministries with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
Those vows, says Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball of the West Virginia Area, are the core of faithful stewardship.
"Living in community requires commitment, responsibility and accountability to and for all its members," she says. "This should inspire deep-rooted, foundational care for each other, as well as for our local and global communities. This is stewardship, and it is reflected in the vows each of us made when we joined the community of faith.
"Christ gave and gives abundantly. We have been blessed for the purpose of being a blessing to others."
Steiner Ball says stewardship, for her, is "a pathway for living a faithful life. It is about sharing the gifts God has given to us in a way that significantly impacts the way we live our lives."
For many others, however, living that faithful life can be difficult in a society that often places individual needs above the good of many.
Faithfulness also requires acknowledging that all wealth comes from God, Steiner Ball says, and "human beings are called to be the managers and multipliers of God's gifts."
How we learn it, live it, teach it
People learn to live for others, Steiner Ball says, by studying Christ's teaching.
"We are to live after the example of Christ," she says. "Christ gave and gives abundantly. We have been blessed for the purpose of being a blessing to others."
That belief, she says, prompts the question every member should ask: How will you use your spiritual and material gifts to work alongside others to build up this body of Jesus Christ?
The church provides an answer. "Christian community creates the space, the situation, where God's abundant blessings can be brought to light, so that we can be accountable to the image of God in which we are created by modeling our lives after the life of Christ," Steiner Ball says.
Tita Parham, writer, editor and communications consultant based in Apopka, Fla.
United Methodist Church Giving is about people working together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. In so doing, we effect change around the world, all in the name of Jesus Christ. To read stories about giving click here.