Thursday, March 22, 2012


We are all called to be responsible with the time, talent, and treasure we receive from God. Here's one way we're doing it. (This is the talk my husband gave this past weekend on the topic of stewardship.)

Shortly after Liana and I got married, we spent an afternoon going through all of our kitchen stuff. We'd each lived on our own for a while, and once we added wedding presents...well, we couldn't consistently get the utensil drawer closed any more. We ended up with several boxes of things that we donated.

This process was a lot like stewardship in our lives.

There were some things that were obvious. We didn't really need to have 30 forks, knives and spoons. Or two pots of identical size. These are the things that it felt good to pass on to others. Things like going to Mass on Sundays. Or helping out with something our kids are involved in. Holding the door open for someone.

Then there were the things that weren't quite so obvious. Do we keep the larger toaster oven, or the one that cooks at a higher temperature? Which set of silverware did we like more? How do we decide which of these coffee mugs from our extended family represent less important memories, or do we really have to dedicate an entire cabinet to them? This is where opportunity cost starts to come in to play. Like going to daily Mass. Or volunteering for a committee at church I have no personal involment with. Or buying a cup of coffee for a homeless person who asks during the winter.

And then...there was the dishwasher. Our house came with what must have been the first dishwasher ever sold. It was huge, it was on wheels, and it was ugly. It was, however, a dishwasher, and we didn't particularly have the space to replace it. This was a very tough call for us, but ultimately, we said goodbye to the dishwasher, passing it off to some group that was willing to pick it up. This was the first of many difficult financial decisions we've made in our marriage. Like only going out to dinner once a month. Giving ourselves only $30 a month - a dollar a day, on average - to spend on ourselves outside of that one dinner; if we want to buy something more expensive, we have to sell other things or wait. Selling a car, even though we could afford to keep it without it being a hardship.

Now, I've focused a lot about the sacrifice of stewardship, but that's not the whole picture. I was certain, when we cleaned out our kitchen, that I would miss having some of the stuff around, or that our shelves would be empty. I was wrong on both counts; I haven't really missed anything...maybe the dishwasher, a little...but our kitchen does not feel incomplete by any stretch. And now we can fit a small table by our kitchen window and eat there, where the dishwasher used to sit.

Similarly, our lives do not feel any less complete because of our frugality. Quite the opposite. It gives us the ability not just to tithe to the Church, but to be able to give $20 or $100 at a fundraiser we weren't expecting without having to worry about how it impacts our budget. We're no longer living paycheck to paycheck and are debt-free except our mortgage, and no longer live in terror of the next round of layoffs at my job. The $30 a month limit forces me to really think about clutter before it just takes up space in the house, reduces the existing clutter when I find expensive things I genuinely do want, and has not yet prevented me from spontaneously joining friends at Bob's Diner or at a bar downtown. I do sort of miss the car, but it's been pretty easy to coordinate trips, and I enjoy conversations with others, so carpooling has been nice. Speaking of which, if anyone could give me a ride home tonight, I'd appreciate it.

We're not wealthy in the way most Americans define it; our income places us in the lowest tax bracket. However, God has blessed our family with more wealth than the majority of the world, and it's possible that, for some of you, having $30 a month sounds like a dream rather than a shockingly small amount of money. In that case, I'd still invite you to take a look at what you do have, even if it's the ability to give $1 spontaneously or just driving a smaller car. Remember the story of the widow who gave the two cents, and how, for her, that was more than anyone else. However, for most of us, I suspect we could spend less on our own wants and more on the people who truly have needs. I've told you about some of the stuff we've done...but I'm reading this from a smartphone, and sometimes I still wonder if we've given up enough.


  1. this was so inspiring to read, and came across my screen at just the right moment in time for me.... by the way, I believe absolutely nothing happens by coincidence :) thank you for taking the time to post this - it has given me more than you might think.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I sometimes think I am wasting my time writing here; comments like yours give me the motivation to keep going. Thank you.