Why Social Convention = Poor Stewardship

A couple of months ago I was invited to dinner. I arrived slightly early, and the first thing my host said to me was "When the invitation says 7:00, you are supposed to arrive 10 minutes late." The first words-- before, "Hello, it's good to see you, thanks for coming."

What I wanted to respond was, "I think that's horribly superficial and completely disrespectful of my time as a guest." What I did was smile and nod.

The other day it started bothering me again. Social convention, I thought to myself, often equals poor stewardship. Jesus said, "Let your yes be yes and your no be no," in other words "say what you mean!" Thus when the invitation says 7:00, arriving at 7:00 is good stewardship of time, both the host's and guest's. Intending to be late, or expecting guests to be late, is not.

Stewardship was especially on my mind because I was at the mall. Malls in St. Louis are stuffed full of designer shops and million-dollar accessories. Shortly after moving here, I was advised to shop at Brooks Brothers, so one day when I walked past their storefront, I actually looked in the windows. Right in the front was a rack of sale items-- on sale, I could buy two shirts for $189. This cannot possibly be good stewardship of money. For one thing, it ties up money that could be spent on helping feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, clothing the naked or giving to the church. If I were to buy shirts at that price, I would be spending the money exclusively on me, and it would only do any good for me.

Jesus once told a rich man that to reach Heaven he had to sell everything he had, so nothing would be in his way, before coming to follow Jesus. And the man went away crushed, because his money was his identity. If I dress to show off how much money I have, (or, considering how much debt people my age are racking up, to show how much money I wish I had) what does my appearance preach about my relationship with Christ?

There's a line here, of course. Some things don't seem to be good stewardship, but when I dig into the real motives, they're okay. And Jesus warned us that we imperfect people usually can't tell what people's motives are. Only God can do that. So when I talk about stewardship today, I am speaking of things I expect of myself, and not anyone else. At the same time, every minister, youth and otherwise, (including every parent and church member) needs to lose the fear of saying "how we spend (time, energy, love, money) shows how important Jesus' work is to us."

With that disclaimer in mind:
I want to be on time, as a sign of respect for my host's invitation.
I want to be dressed to show that I am willing to jump into work and service whenever I see the opportunity.
By spending carefully, I want to be generous to people in need and causes I believe in.
I want to be aware of my skills and using them freely to point to Christ who empowers them in me.

1 comment:

Esther said...

Those are excellent goals.

On a side note, I can't believe someone actually told you that 7pm meant 7:10pm, that's so rude! I have noticed that people outside of Michigan often mean ten or twenty minutes later when they give one a time to be somewhere. It annoys me a lot, because I like to be punctual and I'm going to show up on time no matter what. I see it as a sign of respect for others.

Anyway, I wish you well on your stewardship goals and I hope to come up with some similar goals for myself.