At Work & Theology 101

Video: An Organic Farmer Talks About Christian Stewardship

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Joel Salatin is a “beyond organic” farmer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He sat down with IFWE for a video interview to talk about the biblical view of stewardship and how this translates into his work at Polyface Farms.

Stewardship in Work

To Salatin, stewardship is the Christian calling to create abundance in our world through our work. It starts in the Garden of Eden, when God made man and woman stewards over the earth (Gen. 1:26) and put them in the garden to work and take care of it (Gen. 2:15).

According to Salatin, this means we’re supposed to use what animals don’t have—”our big brain and opposing thumbs”—to leave the world a more abundant place than we found it, through our work.

Redemptive Stewardship

Stewardship in our work is a redemptive act, a reflection of Christ, and a visible lesson of invisible truth. Salatin explained this idea further in a previous interview:

Creation is an object lesson of spiritual truth. In other words, the way God set things up, physical principles should show, viscerally, what we don’t see spiritually. […] Healing the earth serves as a fundamental object lesson of God’s healing of our spiritual condition.

Salatin embraces physical stewardship as a visceral template for how far God’s redemptive capacity stretches. His deep understanding of theological stewardship affects every aspect of his farming—from what he feeds his cows to how he distributes his eggs—in order to best serve his customers and heal the earth.

Stewardship as a Means to Flourishing

Salatin is called to be a steward of his farm, and he does this by creating what he calls an “ecological profit and loss statement” that will lead to more human flourishing. He says,

God endowed me with a big brain and opposing thumbs to use my cleverness and mechanical ability to massage the earth, his creation. […] We’re supposed to be creating [an] ecological profit and loss statement that creates more soil, cleaner water, more abundance, more resiliency, better immune systems, fewer pharmaceuticals, more health, fewer hospitals…

Salatin’s work serves as a living example of man interacting with creation in the way God intended so that humanity might flourish.

What Does Stewardship Mean for Me in My Work?

It might be obvious why stewardship is important to the work of a farmer, but stewardship isn’t just about the environment. Stewardship is central to all jobs and careers.

  • Stewardship is choosing your career wisely and prayerfully. Are you doing something God has called you to that uses your gifts and passions?
  • Stewardship is creating the most value possible. How are you using your time at work? Is there a way you can use resources more efficiently and effectively?
  • Stewardship makes the world a better place. How does your work meet a need in the world? How does your work leave the world better than you found it?

Salatin’s work is just one way Christians can exhibit a robust theology of stewardship. Stewardship connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world, therefore we need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us to glorify him, serve the common good, and further his kingdom.

Want to know more about Joel Salatin and how he connects faith, vocation, and stewardship? Check our blog interview series with him:

Joel Salatin on Work and Stewardship (Part One)

Joel Salatin on Forgiveness Farming and Redemptive Work (Part Two) 

Joel Salatin on Economics, the Environment, and God (Part Three)

Editor’s note: Read more about the integration of faith and work in How Then Should We Work?

On “Flashback Friday,” we take a look at some of IFWE’s former posts that are worth revisiting. This article was previously published on Feb. 21, 2014.

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