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More Than Money

Caring for others as faithful stewards

While many of us think of stewardship as a financial act, the word has a richer meaning that goes beyond dollars and cents.

"Money isn't removed from the picture, but it isn't the whole picture," explains Rev. Dave Kehl, executive director of ministries at Atonement Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "The word 'stewardship' makes us cringe in the church, because people hear it and think the church is behind budget. But drop the 'ship' and you have the word 'steward,' which is someone who has been entrusted to care for something."

As 1 Peter 4:10 says: "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."

This verse offers a wonderful starting point for becoming good stewards, but Kehl is quick to add that stewardship is more than using time, talents and treasures for the greater good. "These are all tools in the belt for something bigger," he says. "We start with our identity as children of God. Rather than manage our time and investments, we are called to be stewards of our relationships" with God, family and friends. "Ask yourself, 'What can I contribute to develop these relationships that will impact the work of the church as it carries out God's kingdom activity?'" he says.

For Thrivent member John Hall, the answer to that question began on a mission trip to Haiti 14 years ago. He saw many hungry, hopeless children and resolved to fill their bellies. When he returned to the States, he created Trinity/HOPE (Link opens in new window) in 1999 at one school. Trinity/HOPE now feeds more than 15,000 children and teachers at 86 Christian schools in Haiti. "God just kept providing, and we just kept feeding kids," Hall says. The nonprofit's work has facilitated the spiritual feeding of many children and their families as well, he says, with many of them joining the church.

The program has gone far beyond his initial plans. "I had no idea when I started how many schools there were with hungry kids, but I looked at those kids and knew how much they were suffering," Hall says. "The account of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 ('For I was hungry, and you fed me.') has always been one of my favorite Scriptures."

Others feel called to be a steward in different ways. After all, Martin Luther himself called us "masks of God," meaning that God relies on us to do His work caring for and ministering to others on earth.

As a pilot, Thrivent member Wendell Holland is always looking for excuses to fly. "Pilots know the more we fly, the better we are, but I didn't want to just go up and burn holes in the sky," he says.

So, in 2008, Holland began volunteering with Angel Flight (Link opens in new window), a nonprofit organization that provides air transportation for people with medical needs. He's completed about 80 flights for patients traveling from Tulsa to Houston and other locations.

"I honestly feel that my contribution is quite small, with the exception of a couple of truly life-saving flights," says Holland. "I get patients to and from the appointment, and if I've made their lives even 10% easier, then I feel like I've done a big thing for them."

Holland's story illustrates the many ways that we can practice stewardship in our lives. "Stewardship is using your gifts in service to your family, profession, community and congregation," says Dr. Kurt Senske, chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South, member of Thrivent's board of directors, and author of The Calling: Live a Life of Significance. "We can use our God-given gifts and our material wealth to fulfill our callings."

Discover how Thrivent can help you give back, serve others and live generously.

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