Scriptural Basis for Stewardship: The Shema Dt 6:4-5


I have studied one of the documents from the Pontifical Biblical Commission titled,
“The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible.” This is a very interesting document in itself, but in the Preface, Cardinal Ratzinger gives some pivotal advice: “Christians can learn a great deal from a Jewish exegesis practiced for more than 2000 years.”

I have a small library of Jewish commentaries which are of very high quality.

One of the expositions is on the greatest Jewish prayer in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Shema. “Hear O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Long story short:
The command to love the LORD with all your heart is interpreted as a command to pray (for there is otherwise no command to pray found in the Torah, according to the Jewish commentary).

The command to love the LORD with all our soul, is interpreted to mean that we must be faithful to God, even unto death.

The command to love the LORD with all our strength, is interpreted specifically to mean “with all our resources, including financial.”

And, Jewish ethics applies that command to all the other Torah commands, such as to love our father and mother, to provide shelter and food for them, and nursing home care, as needed. But, it also includes grandparents paying for their grandchildren to attend Jewish school,

We might test ourselves on this basic Old Testament/New Testament teaching:

how dare we say we love the Lord, if we do not pray?

how dare we say we love the Lord, if we do not practice our faith with not reservation, even to the point of shedding our blood?

how dare we say we love the Lord, if we do not use all our God-given resources where God is pointing us ? – to our family, to our church, to the poor? Stewardship of His gifts. The Shema goes way past the notion of tithing.

This understanding of disposal of our wealth appropriately is really the key to understanding what Jesus was saying to the rich young man, who wanted to know how to attain eternal life. Jesus admonition for him to sell all he possessed and to give it to the poor, comes from the heart of the shema.

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