Public Square & Theology 101

Stewardship, Community, and Flourishing

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We live in a strange paradox. Our cultural narratives are comprised of concepts like “rugged individualism,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” and “every man for himself.” Independence is seen as the ultimate virtue.

Despite these narratives, the truth is our very existence is dependent on our interdependence.

Created to Be Castaways?

How long would you last if you had to go out tomorrow and hunt or grow your own food?

Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Castaway was stranded on a desert island. Although independent in the truest sense, he struggles through the movie as he deals with the hardships of surviving in isolation, having to provide for all of his physical needs by himself. The movie gives us a sense of what our lives would be like if we had to live without community.

In my last post, I stated that God created us as relational beings. We were created in the image of a relational God who has always existed in community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Professor Darrell Johnson notes in his book Experiencing the Trinity:

At the center of the universe is a relationship. This is the most fundamental truth I know. At the center of the universe is a community. It is out of that relationship that you and I were created and redeemed. And it is for that relationship that you and I were created and redeemed!

God created us to be in relationship with him, and he also created us to be in relationship with one another. Andy Crouch writes in his book, Culture Making, that God created a world,

…designed for the flourishing of exquisitely relational creatures, male and female, who themselves are very good because they bear the image of a relational God.

Independence is not taught in the Bible. Rather, the Bible emphasizes community. In the first chapter of Genesis, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image.” Scripture calls us to connectedness from the very beginning. To be sure, we as individuals are called to play a part in the Biblical narrative, but for the most part we do our work in the context of community.

Community & Comparative Advantage

In Romans 12:4-7 the Apostle Paul provides us with some insight about how our different skills and talents are actually the gifts God gives us, and the mechanisms that bring us into community with one another. He writes,

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach.

God intentionally made his creation diverse. Here Paul is confirming something economists call comparative advantage.

Comparative advantage is using the gifts and talents God has given you to do the things you are best at doing. Comparative advantage is the glue that holds communities together.

As we each do what we are best at doing, we all add to the common good. We are to fulfill our call to be good stewards in community with one another. This is what God intended. This is also why the great reformer Martin Luther can say the first way we love our neighbor is to do our jobs well.

Biblical stewardship takes place in community, an idea that has been lost on many of our current churches catering to Christians heavily influenced by our current individualistic culture.

It is through Christ’s redemption that we are restored to a right relationship with our heavenly father. That in turn allows Christians to seek the fullness and wholeness of living and being good stewards in community.

When we do this, we bring a level of flourishing to our families and our communities, reflecting the glory of God to a world that is in desperate need of finding something greater than itself.

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