“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
I Peter 4:10
For me, this is one of the most powerful passages of scripture that really gets at the core of what Stewardship should be. Did you know, however, that this verse never comes up in the Revised Common Lectionary, and many of us follow the lectionary for our preaching?
Verses one through eight are listed in the lectionary for Holy Saturday before Easter Sunday and verse 12 is part of the lectionary on the seventh Sunday of Easter but verse 10 never occurs in the lectionary. So, unless you were specifically focusing on this passage you might not ever hear it in a sermon. What a loss that would be to never have the opportunity to explore the meaning of this scripture as part of our understanding of Stewardship.
Some of you may have read the book, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia which was written by Elizabeth Gilbert and published in 2006. If not the book, you may have seen the movie by the same name where Julia Roberts played the part of Elizabeth Gilbert.
The premise of the book is this, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern, educated, ambitious American woman is supposed to dream of having – a husband, a house, a successful career – but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she found herself lost, confused, and searching for her purpose in life. She went through a divorce, suffered from depression, experienced another failed relationship and basically lost everything she thought she was supposed to be.
To recover from all of this, Gilbert took a radical step. In order to give herself time and space to find out who she was and what she wanted, she got rid of her belongings, quit her job, left her loved ones behind and took a year-long journey around the world, all alone. The book, Eat, Pray, Love is her chronicle of that that year. Her goal for this trip was to visit three places where she could examine one aspect of her own nature that she felt she had lost in a culture that does that well.
In Italy, she studied the art of pleasure, learned to speak Italian, learned to love again the joy of eating and gained 23 of the happiest pounds of her life. She spent time in India to recapture the art of devotion, where with the help of a native guru she embarked on four months of spiritual exploration. Finally, in Indonesia, she sought her ultimate goal of balance, to somehow build a life of equilibrium between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
I think there are lots of people in our world today who feel the way Elizabeth felt, lost, confused, and searching for they really want in life. We try to fill the void by buying more things, living beyond our means, always thinking the grass is greener somewhere else. Now most of us probably would find it difficult to take a whole year off from life to “find ourselves,” but maybe we are looking for fulfillment in the wrong places.
Let’s look at what we read in Peter, “Be hospitable to one another.” Think about the ways we are hospitable to one another. We enjoy one another’s company. We provide opportunities for fellowship. We love eating together, and breaking bread together is part of our Stewardship of Community. Being good stewards means to care for the community of believers that God has entrusted into our care.
The scripture says, “Be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.” One of the ways we care for one another is to pray for one another. We listen to the needs of others and pause to pray for them. Praying is a spiritual discipline, and it is part of our Stewardship of the Spirit – lifting prayers to God and asking that the Holy Spirit comfort those who are grieving and lonely, those who are sick and hurting.
Finally, the scripture says to “Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” We all have received gifts. It might be the gift of hospitality or the gift of prayer. It might be the gift of generosity or the gift of friendship. Part of our Stewardship is recognizing those gifts and honoring God by using whatever gift we have received to serve one another. This is the Stewardship of Time and Talents – our service.
So, there it is “Eat, Pray, and Love,” hospitality, prayer, service. It’s a perfect analogy for this passage of scripture and it’s our call to Stewardship and a new way of life.
POJ Associate for Stewardship