Today, more than ever, we are being called out for the lack of responsibility we have taken upon ourselves regarding the earth, its natural and economic resources. There are constant lectures and programs that present multitudes of statistics regarding this predicament. Unfortunately, this call to action for a healthier planet has been stereotyped by the demands of the tree huggers. I too used to place that same label on that group. Nonetheless, I believe Christians have one of the most essential roles regarding the care and upkeep of earth’s natural and fiscal resources, which this commitment is stewardship.
First, we must define stewardship. Our working definition will be Kauffman’s explanation of it in Stewards of God, in which he expresses stewardship as “the receiving and sharing of God’s bounteous gifts, managing them for the best promotion of God’s purposes in the world” (Milo, 21). This working description provides us with a more faith-integrated understanding.
To describe the mission of stewardship we must turn to the ultimate steward, God. He created the earth has continued to care and protect it (and us). “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalms 24:1). Consequently, God’s characteristic of stewardship is something we need to replica, for as emphasized in Genesis 1:26-27, we humans are made in His image; we are delegated with the task to care for God’s creation as He does.
Stewardship as a task
Loren Wilkinson, in Earth Keeping in the 90’s, continues to explain the mission of stewardship by stating that “stewardship is a general task” given by God in a contextual outlook—meaning stewardship forms a framework for the many more detailed responsibilities, which God has given to us, to be comprehended, practiced and accomplished (316). For example, love is a side task within the realm of stewardship, for as stated in 1 John 4:12, “we who posses any portion of the earth’s resources are obliged to love one another.” This great byproduct of stewardship gives us the appreciation and understanding how we manage the task of stewardship differently (320).
Stewardship as an ethical decision
To understand stewardship as an ethical choice we must acknowledge how we can be unethical stewards. An unethical steward is one who enriches him or herself at others’ expense (Jegen, 45). This concept in itself is inherently sinful. Our culture has imbedded in us this desire to consume, consume, consume without end. This consumption does not just take away the natural resources of the planet, but also the values of co-stewardship. We must alter this mindset. We cannot continue to let the outlooks of “what mine is mine absolutely and I can do with it as I wish” (Jegen, 49). The arrogance of egotism destroys the founding principles of shared-stewardship, for it separates us further from the end goal of co-inhabiting and co-managing life.
Unfortunately, a simple attitude change may not be the easiest thing to do. But there is hope. A humble way to start a transformation to a life of ethical stewardship is prayer. A life of prayer dedicated to making God first, others second, and you (and in my case, me) last.
According to the Giving USA Report, the United States has increased its contributions to those in need by $316.23 billion over the past year. That’s awesome! Please read the rest of the study for more donation statistics.
Stewardship in the economy
Now that we understand what stewardship is all about and how it is an ethical decision, we can go further into the implications of stewardship, including how it plays out in the economy. As consumers and producers, we attempt to maximize resources to full potential. However, Christians must take into consideration the stewardship of finances when participating in the market. As expressed in Deuteronomy 14:22-23, we are to “set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year,” which is also known as a tithe. Tithing is an act of stewardship, therefore is an act of worship, because it is a routine of giving God’s blessing (money) back to Him.
Stewardship of finances is not all about tithing but how people utilize their money. A simple way to check this is to look at your checkbook…. so where are you spending the most money? That is the easiest question to answer the question, “what do you value most in life?” The way you allocate your finances shows your priorities.
Stewardship is an act of worship through obedience. Most people relate stewardship specifically to the way in which we care for earth, which is a huge concept, but we must not take lightly the task of being stewards of our money, because it too is a gift. Stewardship is a way in which we can become more like Christ. We were made in God’s image; therefore, we must also take the role of stewardship like Him. We should try to do our best to care for everything God has given us, including monetary means and natural resources from earth. The way you allocate your finances demonstrates your priorities in life.
Jegen, Mary, and Bruno Manno. The Earth Is the Lord’s. N.p.: Missionary Society, 1978. Print.
Kauffman, Milo. Stewards of God. Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001. Print.
Wilkinson, Loren. Earth Keeping in the 90’s: Stewardship of Creation. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991. Print.
- Stewardship (greenreview.blogspot.com)
- Stewards of God’s Love – Stewardship Resource for Congregations (swmnelca.wordpress.com)
- Reconciling Symbols: Stewardship (greaterislove.wordpress.com)