Thursday, April 3, 2014

Where your Treasure is: Feeding sheep: Generosity from a young perspective

By Rev. Phyllis Bowers
Executive Director United Methodist Stewardship Foundation

We trust good deeds will trickle down according to God’s design, just as exhaled, condensed breath is molded into a cloud and trickles down, drunk by moss on a forest floor we’ll never see.

Some understand environmental interdependence, but we’re now confronting global wounds on a whole new scale. We do this daily, facing bruises given to those we love and those we don’t even know.

We’re charged to steward a global household. But how can we manage this abundance of matter? We must balance feeding with being fed. God’s generous hand continues to spill manna and sometimes we exploit that gift.

One night I fed orphaned lambs from a bottle. The bottle wasn’t going anywhere, but they were chasing it, kicking their hind legs. It’s natural to want to satiate an appetite. But human greed is mindless, distinguishing it from generosity, which is grounded in mindfulness. In a way, college students are orphaned, so I couldn’t blame the lambs for kicking, after all, they’d just lost their mother.

We are kicking just as desperately as we try to organize daily activities around chaos. We’re afraid of leaving a messy planet for future generations and of disappointing parents. In young adulthood, we still want acknowledgment from parents, but we also want to challenge them. Sometimes our generation is afraid of not being acknowledged to the point of forgetting to give quietly. Let’s be remembered in family stories after we’ve been folded back into clay.

What are we called to do? Feed my sheep. Sometimes this literally means offering a bottle of milk to hungry lambs, and sometimes it means setting aside ten percent of your energy to help a friend. It is the work of the young to redefine stewardship. Maybe tithing means reducing fuel-powered energy usage by ten percent.

My friends express fear of being alone – socially, spiritually, physically – on campus, on line, falling asleep. Mom’s recipe for friendship (true social security): Very few people won’t return a smile. Cultivating generosity begins with giving a smile, knowing you might not get one back.

Make sure you’re chasing things worth chasing: a parent’s blessing and the gratitude of your unborn children.

Excerpted from an article by the same title from “Giving – Growing Joyful Stewards in Your Congregation – Fearless Generosity,” the annual stewardship magazine published by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center.

Original article by Anna Mullen. To order your copy of “Giving…” contact us at 717-766-7343, 800-272-0113, go to or call 855-278-4372. Other theme materials are available.

For more information contact Phyllis Bowers at (local) 717-766-5376 or 

(toll-free) 1-877-619-5974 or e-mail

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