Chances are that if you’ve attended a church for a significant period of time or read the Bible extensively, you’ve come across the term “stewardship.”
You’ve probably learned that stewardship involves making wise financial decisions so that you can support the local church or a mission’s project – or perhaps you’ve thought about it in terms of preserving the environment.
But stewardship encompasses so much more than this!
God presents us with the call to stewardship in Genesis 1:28 when he tells us to multiply and fill the earth. In doing so we are being fruitful. This is God’s call to stewardship, often referred to as “the cultural mandate.”
The implications of being fruitful and productive are massive. We are to build culture and develop the world. This includes all things that we spend our time doing, including:
- Raising families
- Becoming involved in communities
- Raising churches and cities
- Engaging in commerce and trade.
This is a profound directive, and the effects of doing it well and with purpose allow us to bring hope to the world.
We live out the cultural mandate through our work, which includes for-profit work, nonprofit work, and work inside the home. So how do we exercise stewardship through what we do?
Stewardship Includes Our Work
Our call to be good stewards arises from God’s perfect creation of the earth and everything in it.
God’s work – the Garden of Eden – was perfect but unfinished. We are created to use our God-given creativity to leave more than what we were born into.
We do this by recognizing our unique gifts, skills, and talents. Each person has a unique opportunity to contribute to the cultural mandate that no one else has ever had because every single individual has something unique to offer that only he or she can give. Through these things, we come to know our purpose.
Our lives are intentional and we have a role in kingdom-building work that does not just occur in the halls of the church on Sunday morning, but rather in all aspects of our lives and our work.
That means that we aren’t just preserving the earth, our resources, and our abilities; we are cultivating and growing them. We are called to create something and to leave more than what we were born into. We are given this call in Genesis 2:15 before the Fall, when God puts man in the garden to work it and to take care of it.
Work is what we do and stewardship is how we do it. Stewardship refers to all of our decision-making: how we choose to use our time, our talents, and our energies. It’s where we draw the boundaries on our commitments. It is reflected in all of our choices, from the mundane to the monumental. This is whole-life stewardship, and it requires a paradigm shift.
How we manage our personal finances, how we tithe, or how we preserve fossil fuels are important aspects of whole-life stewardship, but they are only aspects. True stewardship concerns every decision that a person makes, and it requires intentionality and effectiveness.
Stewardship includes decisions over:
- What college to choose.
- What job to take.
- What activities to volunteer for.
- What to purchase on Amazon.com.
Dealing with Scarcity
The fall of man introduced scarcity into the world, and as a result, people are confronted with constant trade-offs. Scarcity implies that every choice we make involves a cost. Nothing is free.
The phrase, “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” means just that. If someone offers to take another person to lunch and pay for his or her meal, there is still a cost to that party. He or she must give up time to have lunch with that person, and by definition, it means not doing something else.
Time is the most precious of our scarce resources. No matter how much material wealth one has, he or she only has twenty-four hours per day, and no one knows how many days he or she has on this earth.
If Christians are to create cultures and build cities, we don’t have the luxury of wasting our scarce resources. We must be intentional, prudent, and urgent.
This is the meaning of stewardship. It’s not just about our work in the church or how well we preserve the resources God has given us. It’s about what choices we make, how we use our resources, and how we manage every second as individuals in order to impact the world through the work that God has called us to do.
In my next post, I’ll talk about how this applies to us on a global scale.
What does stewardship mean for your life? Leave your comments here.