“Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.”
1 Peter 4:10
For people of faith, estate and financial planning is a key component of stewardship. Stewardship of one’s estate is to realize in our minds and hearts that everything we are and everything that we have are God’s loving gifts to us; we are merely stewards of those blessings. In its simplest form, planned, or legacy giving is charitable giving that is part of a family’s financial and estate planning.
There are four basic principles of Christian stewardship:
We understand these principles pretty well during our life. We pray; we spend time with our family; we volunteer for ministries and activities in our parish, school, neighborhood and community; and we contribute funds to the Church and our favorite charities. These same stewardship principles apply to our estate planning; our estate plan can rightly be considered our final or ultimate act of stewardship.
We should pray for God’s guidance on the appropriate distribution of our estate property. By making a Will and executing other effective estate planning documents we not only ensure that our family is taken care of after we are gone but that those things we are really passionate about benefit as well.
Estate and charitable gift planning is stewardship of our assets, just like our weekly offering during our life is stewardship of our income. By making a bequest or other special gift to the Church through our parish, the Diocese of New Westminster or the national church we ensure that those ministries and activities we supported with our time, talent and treasure during our life will continue to flourish and be enhanced for many future generations. And certainly, these bequests and special gifts do in fact return to God the first fruits of our labors.
Ultimately, stewardship comes down to personal decisions about how each of us lives, and how each of us will respond to God’s gifts based on our experience, self-knowledge and the call of God’s grace. There is the paradoxical truth, found in the New Testament, that by giving ourselves to someone or something beyond ourselves, we discover our own best self: “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for may sake will find it.” (Mt. 10:39)
There are at least four ways to consider including the church in your estate planning. First, consider tithing – even if you have not achieved this level of giving during your lifetime, leaving a tenth to God’s mission and ministry is an effective way to complete this lifelong challenge. Second, consider the step of adopting the church as an extra child; if you have 3, divide by 4, etc. in allocating your assets to loved ones. Third, some endow their annual gift by giving enough to ensure that the income generated by investments replaces the annual gift you made to the church during your lifetime. A fourth option is to leave the residual of your estate after making all other gifts. This approach is the least biblical in the sense that it is not a “first fruits” approach.
Living as Christian stewards should bring a deeper and more solid joy, and confidence about being disciples of Jesus Christ. Engaging in the stewardship of your assets and estate –gives thanks to God.
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