As each has received a gift, employ it for one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
Every year in our parish, we choose a word to define our year. (I’ve also encouraged people to choose a word to define your year. It’s not too late to do this. It’s only January 10, so if you haven’t chosen a word for 2022 to define your year, I encourage you to do this. The advantage of choosing one word, over making a long list of new year’s resolutions, is that it’s hard to not only keep a long list of resolutions, it’s hard to remember them. We can check in with one word on a daily basis, it’s easy to remember. If your goal is to diet and exercise, maybe you want to choose the word “health,” and each day, you can check in with that word.) The word for our parish this year is “stewards.” And our verse is today’s verse from I Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, employ it for one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
There are several elements in this verse. First, “each has received.” Each of us has received something from God, some gift (and usually more than one). Each received something “varied.” Not everyone has the same thing. Not everyone gets married, or has children. Not everyone with children gets three or four—some have one or two. Some don’t have children. Not everyone gets to lead a corporation, or become a millionaire. The obsession with everyone needing to have the same thing is not only impractical. It is anti-scriptural. God has given each of us something, and that something is varied.
What has God given us? According to this verse, He has given each of us two things—a gift, and grace. A gift is something offered freely out of love, not something given out of a sense of obligation. A gift is supposed to be received with gratitude, not entitlement. So God gave each of us a gift. My gift is to serve as a priest. Should I not be grateful for that? Should I complain to God “Why didn’t you make me a surgeon? Why didn’t you give me a career where I could be rich?” I accept God’s gift and (on most days) see it as a privilege. If you completed this sentence—“I see (fill in the blank what you I do for a living) as a privilege”—would that be a truthful statement?
Another gift we receive from God is grace. God’s grace perfects what is imperfect. It’s what allows ordinary to become extraordinary. It’s what allows each person in their ordinary-ness to become extraordinary in some way. A good friend of mine, who is on the prayer team, is not married, lives in a small apartment, and has a job which allows her to put bread on the table but which is not going to make her rich. What makes her extraordinary is that she has a love for animals, which is infectious. She takes care of dogs, trains service dogs, and her efforts bring comfort and joy to many people. On top of that, she is kind, compassionate, and very God-centered. That’s extraordinary! Why? Because most people are not as excited about anything, and are not as kind, compassionate, or God-centered. We (including me) tend to obsess about acquiring things, belonging to groups, and worrying about security. Is this being a good steward of God’s varied grace?
This brings me to the last point that is made in this verse, which is that we are to employ our gifts and our varied grace “for one another.” We are to love God by serving one another. Many times, we tend to think of our jobs as the vehicles by which we make money, or we think of the financial gain first. We don’t think of them as the vehicles by which we serve one another.
We’ve muddied the word “steward” by associating it primarily with money and how much money one gives to the church. This is not what steward means at all. Good stewardship is taking care of the gifts God has given to you. The first and foremost gift each of us who is reading this message has is life. You are alive today. That is a gift! What are you going to do with that gift? Waste it in front of a television set? Spend it on social media? Have you made a plan for how you are going to employ God’s gifts today for the benefit of others? It is true that we are stewards of our money—and as good stewards, we should offer money in support of both the church and charity. And each church should offer some of its money in charity as well.
We’re going to spend this week reflecting on ways to kick-start our faith in the new year. Many of us are “zipping along” in our faith, and if that describes you, hopefully these reflections will encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. However, many of us are struggling or in need of some encouragement or just a new start. Hopefully, these reflections will give you something to think about in this new year, and some practical ways to feel more joy and purpose in your Christian walk.
Perhaps the best way to live the Christian life is to focus on being a good steward of today. After all, as we read in Psalm 118:24, “This is the DAY the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” So, reflect on the gifts that God has given you, and reflect on them with gratitude and purpose, with gratitude for what you have rather than sadness for what you don’t have; and with purpose, with a desire to employ your gifts for the benefit of others.
Lord, thank You for Your many gifts. Thank You for the gift of this day. Help me to see this day as a gift that You have given to me. Thank You for the gifts You have given that are unique to me. (list them) Help me to use these gifts to give glory to You and to serve others today and always. Amen.
One of the easiest ways to kick-start your faith is not to be sad over the failures of yesterday, or the dreams of tomorrow (that might not be realized), but on the opportunities today to use your varied gifts of God’s grace to show love for God and in service to one another.