What is Stewardship?


What Methodists Believe about Money* — Stewardship for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, does not begin with money. Neither does it originate in charity or duty. Stewardship has its origin in the nature and mission of God. God owns everything and God desires that all people share in the blessings of God’s good creation.

The anchor of a Wesleyan perspective on stewardship is grace, God’s grace, which is defined as gift. Everything is owned by One whose very character is expressed in giving and who desires that we share in God’s generosity by giving ourselves. The Psalmist expresses the foundation for stewardship in the Wesleyan tradition: “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it . . .(Psalm 24:1).

One of God’s special gifts to human beings is the invitation to share in God’s own life and mission by being a steward. Wesley believed that God placed resources in our care to use as God sees fit; and God desires that all people have the necessities for a full and abundant life as beloved children of God. God’s economy is one of abundance rather than scarcity. Because all creation has its origin and destiny in God, there is always enough when the resources are appropriately shared. When treated as an expression of grace, gifts multiple and are as inexhaustible as the grace of God who is their source.

Stewardship, then, is derived from God’s very being and mission and God’s invitation to share in the divine nature and mission. It is our “way of being in the world” as beloved children of a gifting God. It is a way of life and not mere rhetoric for motivating charitable contributions. God has a prior claim on everything and not just that which we label as “tithe.” The popular notion that we acquire as much as possible and then give to God out of what is left over after our wants and needs are fulfilled falls short of Wesley’s holistic understanding that stewardship is derived from God’s ownership of everything and our invitation to be in the world as recipients and means of grace.

Wesley’s stewardship practice or his economic ethics is summarized in the familiar three-part formula: earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can. That formula was laid out clearly in his sermon entitled “The Use of Money,” which is his clearest statement of his economic ethics.


*Excerpted from Bishop Ken Carter, A Wesleyan Perspective On Christian Stewardship