I grew up poor.
The kind of poor where we scraped coins together to buy milk or bread some weeks; the kind of poor where our small country church brought our quaint family of three boxes filled with food.
At age 8, I remember feeling awed as our pastor and his wife unloaded the bounty given by others onto our kitchen table.
I was grateful for the sharing of blessing because I knew even at that young age how hard my mother worked to provide for my sister and me. (And, honestly, I was pretty elated because they brought the brand of cereal I’d only ever had at my grandparent’s or friends’ houses.)
While my mom cried and thanked them, I remember feeling not only grateful but also inspired; I wanted to be like the pastors. I wanted to give, too.
After the pastor and his wife left and my mom thanked them, she threw my little mind through a major loop when she almost promptly started dividing the food into two piles.
“One pile,” she’d explained, “is for my friend Joy and her two girls because really, I think they need it just as much, if not even more.”
I believe she introduced me to a new term that day; if we were poor, they were dirt poor.
I didn’t quite get the saying (and I still don’t), but I got the concept loud and clear: what’s “ours” is meant to be shared. So really none of it is mine anyway.
This past Sunday, Pastor Josh asked us to become temporary stewards of our neighbors’ wallet or purse.
As I sat there holding two wallets from two people sitting near me, I felt the weight of responsibility to attend well to their belongings.
I didn’t want anything foolish or malicious or irresponsible to happen to their belongings while I was holding them.
In the holding of these wallets, I grasped even more so that with privilege, there is always responsibility. And what will we as believers — believers who believe we are not dictators of an empire we are creating; rather we are citizens in a kingdom that already has a king — what will we do with that responsibility to steward well that which comes to us?
Will we shoulder it well, remembering to do with it what the Rightful Owner would move us to do or will we mistake ourselves as the owners and do with it what would serve only us as owners?
My mind wandered to that scene in my kitchen from childhood.
Who would have ever given to the family in need – my family, Joy’s family – had they sought to only serve themselves?
At 33, I am no longer poor.
I haven’t been poor in quite some time; my husband and I have both had opportunity after opportunity that have afforded him the privilege to establish a solid career and me to launch my own organization.
But, I remember.
I remember vividly.
I remember in the shear emotion of lingering reactions to everyday situations like trying to decide if I have enough money to buy a new package of underwear (and let me assure you we do!); it’s a gut-level reaction every time.
Being poor has imprinted on my brain a reaction that says almost always, “do you need it, and are you sure you have enough to meet this need?”
I remember what it is like to have little to nothing.
But the Holy Spirit has imprinted on my heart that being rich or poor has little to do with good stewardship because with God there is never a lack; there is always abundance.
So, are we being good stewards? Are we listening well enough to know what to do with what He’s given us?
Are we hearing Him when He tells us to meet others’ needs?
Are we spreading what we have – the very great of it or the very little – to where He’s directing?
I’ve had little, and I’ve had much, and none of that matters a whole lot when we’re talking about being stewards because whether rich or poor, because none of it is ours to keep.
So the question becomes not “Do I have enough?” but rather “Will I steward well what God has given to me? ”
Because with God there is always enough; it all belongs to Him anyway.
Hyacynth Worth is beloved to God, wife to John, mom to two boys and two girls and author of Undercover Mother.