Stewardship Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Stewardship in Scripture</span></strong></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 1:26-28</a>, &quot;<span class="body-copy">Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.&quot;</span></span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Genesis 39:4-6</a>, Potiphar makes Joseph overseer of his house and everything that he has</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 20:8</a>, &quot;When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first&#39;&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Matthew 25:14-18</a>, &quot;For it is as if a man, going on a journey, su<span class="body-copy">mmoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. . .&quot;</span></span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Mark 4:24-25</a>, &quot;<span class="body-copy">For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they hav</span>e will be taken away&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">Luke 12:48</a>, &quot;From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">1 Corinthians 4:1</a>, &quot;Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God&#39;s mysteries&quot;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="">1 Peter 4:10</a>, &quot;Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received&quot;</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections about Stewardship</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Many of us think of stewardship as money management, and it is. We earn money, we budget it, we spend only within our means, we save for a rainy day, we charitably give away some of our money, and we provide for those who are dependent on us. We splurge, but rarely. Money stewardship is a solid part of our human responsibility, and good stewards work at their responsibility with alertness and reliability. After all, everything good that we have, including money, ultimately comes from God. Where our money management is concerned, we would therefore like to be in range when God says, &quot;Well done, good and faithful servant.&quot;</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">But stewardship includes so much more than money. Good stewards manage their time too. They think of their time as a valuable resource to be spent wisely. They wouldn&#39;t want to waste it. They would never dream of killing it. They fill their time with responsible thinking, acting, and speaking. They make plenty of room within it for their loved ones. They make space within their time for the worship of God, their top priority.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Responsible dominion</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Early in Genesis, God assigns human beings authority in the created world &mdash; what we might call &quot;responsible dominion.&quot; This is a central part of the image of God in us. God the king assigns subkingdoms in which, under God, we human beings have our say. &quot;Let them have dominion,&quot; says God. &quot;Let them take responsibility for keeping the earth, for respecting the integrity of kinds, and times, and seasons. Let human beings discover the character of other creatures and do what they can to assist these creatures to act in character.&quot;</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Dominion as exploitation?</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">A controversy has brewed over this feature of the image of God. Critics charge Jews and Christians with turning Genesis dominion into a license for trashing the earth instead of keeping it; for exploiting animals instead of husbanding them. And, sorry to say, some of this criticism is on the mark. Christians and others have sometimes taken dominion as justification for the &quot;conquest&quot; of nature &mdash; language that once appeared routinely in social science textbooks&nbsp;<span class="body-copy-sm">(Daniel Migliore, <em>Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology</em>, Eerdmans, 1991, pp. 81 - 84). </span>The language of conquest suggested that we humans were at war with God&#39;s non-human creation, that roaming herds and burgeoning forests are somehow our enemy. Such language showed that we had lost the Biblical portrait of shalom, and that we needed to repent and recover it.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Not conquest, but stewardship</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Nonetheless, the Bible is not the problem here. The Bible speaks of dominion not in the sense of conquest, but in the sense of stewardship. After all, how does God himself exercise dominion? How does God demonstrate hospitality in creation and providence?</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">In the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed, dominion is never &quot;lording over&quot;; it&#39;s more like &quot;lording under&quot; by way of support. In the kingdom of God, to have dominion is to care for the well-being of others. To have dominion is to act like the mediator of creation. This means that a human steward of God&#39;s good creation will never exploit or pillage; instead, she will give creation room to be itself. She will respect it, care for it, and empower it. Her goal is to live in healthy interdependence with it. The person who practices good animal husbandry, forest management, and water conservation shows respect for God by showing respect for what God has made.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">In one striking verse, St. Paul refers to himself and his ministry associates as &quot;stewards of the mysteries of God&quot; (1 Corinthians 4:1). This is paradoxical. Stewards are businesslike people. They deal in order, rationality, and practicality. But mysteries are elusive, evasive, and beyond rationality. Yet we can get a sense of Paul&#39;s meaning. He preached Christ crucified &mdash; seemingly a terrible defeat of the Son of God and the mission of God. But in the providence of God, the crucified Christ himself defeated death, disarmed &quot;the powers,&quot; atoned for sin, arose triumphant from the grave, and assured heavenly hope for his followers. Mysteries abound here, and Paul dispensed them gladly.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong><span class="heading-sm">Stewardship of character</span></strong></span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Finally, one of the most important forms of stewardship we have is over our own character. Yes, virtues are God&#39;s gift, the fruit of the Spirit. But they are also our own human calling. We are to cultivate and tend them, suppressing our vices and encouraging our virtues. Paul says we must &quot;clothe&quot; ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12). This suggests strongly that acquiring virtue is within our power. The key is to long for it. The serious Christian longs all the time &mdash; for God and the beauty of God, for Christ and Christlikeness, for the dynamite of the Holy Spirit and spiritual maturity. She longs to be patient, to be able to absorb nuisances and injuries without passing them back. She wants to love and to be loved, to pour out value on others and to receive value from them with gratitude. She knows that gratitude is a powerful engine of joy, and she feels gratitude and joy even on small occasions and from simple things. She lets herself go in service of others because she knows she will get herself back. She keeps her promises. She weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice. She does all these things in faith. And when her faith slips, she retains enough faith to believe that the Spirit of God will one day secure her faith again.</span></p>