Over the weekend, my sons and I were in the car on our way home from a soccer game when a major discussion of stewardship began. My oldest and I were reminiscing about going to a midnight release of a video game. My youngest lamented that he and I had never done that, but then he agreed that there wasn’t a game released in the last several years that he had wanted so badly as to stand in line at midnight for it. Then he mentioned a friend who stood in line for morning releases of athletic shoes. His friend would spend time waiting in line to throw down over $200 on the latest shoe design so he could wear them before anyone else. I expressed my opinion that was poor stewardship. Well, that’s when the debate began.
My oldest said someone should pay whatever they want for a pair of shoes. I explained that no one needs $200 shoes that basically were just for walking. An experienced athlete perhaps needed such a shoe, but no 12-year-old needed shoes like that. I tried to explain that their mom and I had just purchased a new refrigerator and we saw some models that literally cost $2000 more than the one we bought, and we did not buy a bottom-of-the-line clunker either. At the end of the day, the appliances served the same purpose of keeping food from spoiling (and maybe even dispensing ice and cold water.)
My oldest thought I was a bit repressive with my ideas. He believed if you had the money to buy the most expensive model of the floor, and that’s what you wanted, then by all means it should be yours. I then explained that we are called to be good stewards of all we have been given, and part of that was using money for our needs and not always for our wants. I said there were so many options for the extra $2000 and a wise and good steward should discern how best to use those funds. In the end, we agreed to disagree.
Stewardship must never be a philosophy of how much we contribute to our church in terms of time, talent, and treasure. It is much more than that. It is about how we use all the gifts we have been given in all aspects of our life. We cannot expect most people to be generous in the parish community when they have no real sense of stewardship in their personal daily lives. Pope Francis continually calls us to a greater simplicity and to focus on our needs instead of our wants. This type of stewardship not only affects our entire lives, it can transform them as well.
What my oldest son doesn’t understand yet is that the $2000 I didn’t spend on an appliance, will end up on his college tuition bill because I am called to good stewardship there as well. Every choice of where we spend our time, talent, or treasure affects another choice down the road. Even at 19, he may not yet be able to see that. Most 19 year-olds probably don’t either. But in the future, he may have kids of his own. And one day he may be in a car coming home from the experience of a sporting event he shared with his kids and a question of how one should spend their money will arise. And hopefully, he will see the need to debate stewardship with them as well. But as for now, that’s my job.