Gift of Treasure

What do you treasure?

Are you rich? What makes a person wealthy? In the words of the late Archbishop Thomas Murphy, “What do you own, and what owns you?”

When it comes to stewardship of treasure, it will help for us to think about the foundation of stewardship: all we are and have come from God; to be a good steward means to care for the possessions of another, and to bring them to yield with increase; so the money we earn comes from the good use of the talents, time, skills, and abilities we have been given by God. In an essential way, it isn’t “our” money — it is a gift from God, which we are asked to use responsibly. Beginning with the idea that it isn’t exactly “our” money changes the way we look at the whole thing. We then view our use of money from the perspective of God and God’s ways.

This is bigger than money. This brings us to the whole idea of “treasure.” In part, this is about what we treasure: what is important to us, and what the use of our money says about what we value. Jesus tells us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:21) Treasure also refers to our financial and material resources. So the use of our treasure — our money and material resources — is a sign of what we treasure, or value.

The ways in which we use our financial and material resources is a barometer for the ways in which our relationship with Jesus shapes our daily decisions. The more we grow in faith, the more our decisions will reflect that faith, even our decisions about our use of money.

Jesus often teaches about the good use of financial and material resources, and he illustrates the negative impact of hoarding and being weighed down by money. The Biblical principle of tithing, of offering at least 10% of one’s treasure to church and charity, helps us to use our money in a way that keeps God first as a sign of our gratitude to God for all we’ve been given. Tithing is giving not what is leftover, but rather giving to God first, as a sign of love and trust.  Giving of the “first fruits.”

The challenge: We all have financial responsibilities. Deciding how much money to give, and to what, is a big decision, especially when we realize that the use of money is a sign of what we believe to be of value. Being responsible for money means using it well: providing for our personal and family needs to the best of our ability; saving for the future; not building unnecessary debt; not hoarding or being greedy; giving as much as possible to our parish and the needs of the poor.

Being generous with our money for the sake of others is a reflection of the generosity of God.  When we give unselfishly of our financial and material resources, we show Christ’s loving face to those in need, in a very practical and tangible way.

What is in your treasure chest? Jesus is clear about the way God intends for us to use money. He describes the consequences of wasting it or hoarding it. He also tells us we have responsibility for the needs of the poor, and Scripture tells us of the importance of contributing to the Church community. Let us plan our use of treasure accordingly:

Begin with prayer: This may sound a bit odd if you’ve never done anything like this before, but begin the process of planning for your wise use of money by praying about it. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and actions, and you will not be disappointed!

Create a budget and live with it: Most of us do not make an annual budget for our personal or family use of money, but there is no better way to capture a view of how you currently use money and how you plan to do so in the future. Sit with your weekly or monthly income; plan to give a consistent percentage to your parish (many set as their target 5% to the parish, and 5% to other giving, including Catholic school tuition, but most people have to work up to that percentage over time); make a promise to fulfill this pledge; account for your house, car, food, and insurance costs, along with other annual expenses; determine how much you need to save for the future. If you have debt, decide how you will eliminate that as part of your plan; determine what other specific needs you will address, both for yourself and for the sake of others.

Separate wants from needs: This is one of the most difficult tasks we face in growing as a good steward of our treasure. What do you truly need? What do you simply want? How much of what you want is enough, and how much is too much? Is more and bigger always better?

Discover the joy of giving: Planning to use our financial and material resources as a good steward changes our perspective in so many ways. We look at daily expenses through the eyes of our relationship with God and gain a wider view into the needs of others; we find joy in giving, and we realize that our generosity is a real sign of our gratitude for the blessings we have been given!