We express generosity in many ways. I was made aware of this when I read about different modes of giving in a church newsletter from Trinity Church, Wall Street, in New York City. There are four concepts of giving: charity, philanthropy, fund-raising and stewardship.
Charity is a response to the needs of others. This is seen when it is St. Paul’s turn to serve at the Supper House the second Tuesday of the month. Or when we give back packs, school supplies, or support the shelters. Charity sees the victims and their need and responds with gift giving.
Philanthropy however, is like an investment. It is the act of giving money for a specific reason with the intention of improving the welfare of a community or an organization over the long term. The recipient is obliged to show results. Reports are required on how the money was spent, including periodic progress reports so additional grants might be made.
Fund-raising is focused on a particular project, such as a building, renovation or enhancement to property. Estimates are made, goals are set and appeals are made. The average parish is sometimes tempted to teach fund-raising or charity in place of stewardship. In church activities, fund-raising actually corresponds to what the Bible calls “offerings.” These are gifts given beyond a tithe.
Stewardship is a completely different type of giving from charity, philanthropy or fund-raising. It requires a completely different way of thinking about giving that has meaning only in the context of our relationship with God. The other three forms of giving treat the individual as the owner of the money. Stewardship, on the other hand, treats God as the owner, and the giver as one who simply returns a portion of what God has given.
Stewardship springs out of the theology of the church and offers each of us an opportunity to give out of gratitude and love. Stewardship is giving with no strings attached to fund the various ministries and operations of the church. It is rooted in creation and our place in it. We say, “Stewardship is giving you a chance to give to God a gift because you delight in God’s very existence and the blessings in your life. “ Stewardship is not about giving to a need. It’s all about our need to give. That’s how Jesus could say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”