On December 6th we celebrate the feast day of St. Nicholas. There is more legend than fact in the story, but we do know that he was Bishop of Myra in Turkey and was among those who signed the documents affirming the divinity of Christ promulgated at the Council of Nicea in 325.
He must also have been a good steward, for many of the legends about him focus on his charity. The most famous of these says that he secretly provided the dowries for three poor girls by tossing a bag of gold coins through their father’s window. From this story comes the custom of distributing sweets to children on the eve of his feast day, and from the German translation of his name, Klaus, comes the English, “Santa Claus.” As well as this popular connection with Christmas, he is also the patron saint of Russia, Greece, Sicily, and Lorraine, France. The gifts that he gave are still remembered through our modern gift giving practice of today’s Christmas holiday.
The spiritual connection to stewardship seems clear. The difference in our lives is profound when we are the “givers”. To make our gifts holy, we need to change the focus or why we give. Instead of focusing on the needs of the parish to which we give financial support, or help by our time and talent, the focus needs to be primarily on God and our relationship with him.
If we are looking for the motivation for giving, joy is found if we give in the context that we are grateful to God for what he has already given us. Then we give because we want to, never because we have to.
If we are looking for the results of our giving, the more we practice stewardship, the more we grow spiritually, and our faith is deepened. We become saints, like Nicholas, known for our gifts and for our giving.
“Charge them to do good, be rich in good works, and generous in sharing what they have…” (1 Timothy 6:18)