An Expanded View of Stewardship

January 15, 2013

Stewardship seems to be a particularly Presbyterian emphasis. Your personal experience of this word may be annual, during your congregation’s fall “stewardship campaign” designed to invite your financial pledge for the coming year. You may be familiar with the idea that Christians are called to steward “time, talent, and treasure,” which in common usage refers to the giving or sharing of all three with the church. But the concept of stewardship is far richer and more encompassing than these interpretations. There are at least two catalysts for a broader view of stewardship:

The first scenario goes back to the Garden of Eden, in which God gives Adam and Eve the charge to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, tend “the garden,” and have dominion over creation (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). As representatives of the Creator, human beings are charged with managing everything God possesses (which is the entire earth, Psalm 24:1), enacting God’s will for creation’s benefit, and sustaining God’s resources. If God owns everything and even we are his, then as stewards we are entrusted with our children, our homes, gardens, workplaces, and neighborhoods. These people and things are not ours, but God’s, and that is going to make a big difference in how we relate to them.

Take our children, for instance. When our  first daughter was born, my husband and I were overwhelmed with the gift God had given us. In fact, within minutes of her birth, Andy lifted the baby high and presented her to God, even as we gratefully took her into our care. Who would know that within eight days her health would be threatened by a condition that needed immediate medical intervention? As I sat in the hospital cafeteria exhausted and weeping, the only true consolation was the knowledge that this infant was truly in God’s hands and we were doing everything in our power to take care of her.

The next scenario is the Church, where stewardship implies that even our ministry calling is a gift and a charge, to enjoy what has been given and to use it faithfully according to Christ’s call. The ministry of the church is not shaped by our imaginations or organizational savvy, but by Christ’s own ministry and commission to us. Christ ministered as prophet, priest, and King. If we are to represent Christ in our community and world, we too are going to engage in ministry that is prophetic, priestly, and Kingdom-centered. This would move us to exercise our stewardship in the world by telling the truth about God and humanity, by demonstrating compassion amidst the world’s suffering, by shepherding people and movements toward obedience to God, and by standing for justice and righteousness in all things.

Going back to the post on Election, we were reminded that the church does not exist merely for its own well-being. We are “blessed to be a blessing.” That blessing takes many forms in the life and ministry of the Church. A study of stewardship certainly invites us all to consider how our congregation’s ministry might embody Christ’s three-fold ministry more comprehensively.

But the plot thickens. To do this requires heart, mind, soul, and strength. By committing ourselves to loving God with all that we have, we are taking the first step toward this kind of all-inclusive stewardship. But we also realize that unless our hearts, minds, souls, and wills have undergone the thorough overhaul of the Holy Spirit, our oversight of God’s creation can degenerate into tyranny or exploitation. Presbyterians are quite clear on this: every aspect of human existence—body, mind, emotions, spirit—is in need of God’s redeeming power.

But just think, the more we experience the gracious work of Jesus in our midst, the more we have to share as a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). In other words, we are good stewards of the blessing we have received when we pass those blessings along to the next person who needs them. Have we been blessed with the word of truth? Then we proclaim it with conviction. Have we been met with the tender mercies of God’s forgiveness? Then we forgive others and foster reconciliation. Have we experienced the healing release characteristic of God’s kingdom? Then we advocate for justice. Anything is possible when the Church exercises its prophetic, priestly, and Kingdom service in humble reliance upon Jesus, Lord of all, Head of the Church, and Shepherd of our souls.



One Response to “An Expanded View of Stewardship”

  1. Right down the center of the fairway — Sock!

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