What Kind of People Are We?

By Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis,
Published in This Week At Plymouth, October 29, 2021
“The way we use, own, acquire, and disperse material things symbolizes and expresses our attitudes and responses to ourselves, the world around us, other people, and, most of all, God… The real sin related to possessions has to do with the willful confusion of being and having” —Luke Timothy Johnson, Sharing Possessions

When I worked as a policy advisor to the Episcopal Church, the mainline denominations, the Catholic Church and its auxiliaries, and the National Council of Churches would come together for an annual joint effort calling the U.S. Congress to pass a moral budget for the nation. Specifically, we were calling on Members of Congress to use our nation’s vast wealth and resources, our great abundance, to address life and death issues like hunger, poverty, homelessness, and climate change. We lamented that the meager resources dedicated to alleviating poverty, addressing systemic injustice, and caring for the planet did not reflect the nation’s professed values to establish justice and promote the general welfare of the people. The way the nation regularly spent its resources begged us: What kind of people are we?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offered his followers some wisdom that could help them discern what kind of people they were, especially when it came to their abundance: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). It is an invitation to reflect on the connection between being and having. Where we invest, with whom we share, and how generous we are with our abundance communicate to the world who we are and what we value regardless of how profoundly generous our rhetoric may sound or despite whatever good intentions we may have. Unfortunately, our culture and economy place exorbitant emphasis on the symbolic value of having, leading many of us to assume that the worth of our being is found in possessing abundance more so than sharing it.

The faith of our beloved community, anchored in Jesus’ wisdom, invites us to stewardship as the antidote to any confusion between being and having. Faithful stewardship entails seeing our possessions, not merely as an accounting of what we have but as an expression of who we are as receivers and trustees of the gifts and abundance from an extravagantly generous God and what being stewards of that abundance require of us. Keeping with this focus on connecting being and having as part of faithful stewardship, the Plymouth Stewardship Committee is launching our 2022 Annual Giving Campaign with the theme, Cultivate Faith, Nurture Connection, Amplify Love. It reflects an aspirational mode of being for us as we discern our commitments and financial giving. We invite our community to commit and share their resources as part of Plymouth’s work of cultivating faith, nurturing connection, and amplifying love within, among, and beyond ourselves. I can think of no better expression of the kind of people we are and hope to be than faith, connection, and love.

DeWayne L. Davis