A Broader Understanding of Stewardship
In recent years, the place where I became most frustrated was the carpool line. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy taking my child to school, but that I was plagued by parents who refused to follow the drop-off protocol.
As I considered why I would get so frustrated at these rule breakers, I finally determined that it was an issue of time. When they didn’t do what the school requested of carpoolers, the line would back up and the process would take longer and longer. I just couldn’t handle people wasting my time.
In essence, time falls under the umbrella of resource allocation, or how we assign available resources to various uses. As humans, we’re allowed to determine how to wield resources in this world. But there are two general principles behind these decisions of allocation. First, resources are finite; we cannot create them out of nothing. And second, our resources aren’t ours alone; we must share them.
The economic idea of resource allocation has a biblical source and we tend to call it stewardship. There are some who believe that stewardship is an antiquated church word that we use to describe giving or offering. In fact, we tend to use the words “generosity” and “stewardship” interchangeably. But being generous is actually a way in which we can approach our stewardship.
The word “stewardship” doesn’t even appear in the Bible. To better understand the call to be good stewards, we should explore what the Bible says about this discipline. Specifically, we should hone in on the Garden of Eden.
Here we read that God placed humanity in the garden to “tend and watch over” it. Observe that Adam and Eve did not create Eden themselves. This is an important principle that undergirds our stewardship: nothing on earth is truly ours. We own nothing. This might sound harsh but not even your spouse and children are yours. In Psalm 24 we read that, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Essentially, Adam and Eve were called to be stewards in the Garden of Eden.
Later, however, we see the failure of their stewardship. There were virtually no limits of the resources they could utilize in the Garden except one thing: the Tree of Knowledge in their stewardship. Despite the riches at their disposal, they simply could not resist eating the one fruit they were forbidden to eat. As a result of their sin, they were banished from Eden and lost the ability to manage its resources.
If we truly embrace the concept of stewardship, we will make decisions from a more enlightened perspective. When we accept that this world is temporary, we are motivated to invest our resources in areas with an eternal yield rather than in possessions that “moth and rust will destroy.” Yes, we need to provide for our families and friends, but we do not confuse needs with desires. The apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 4:2 that, “a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.” The Lord calls his people to be faithful stewards.
C.S. Lewis powerfully expressed this view of stewardship in his masterpiece, Mere Christianity, when he wrote,
“every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.”