Theology 101

What Is Stewardship – Really?

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God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.

– Genesis 1:31

Many Christians in the church today view stewardship only as giving money to the church. Even those who understand stewardship as the godly management of their time, talent, and treasure are still missing something. We have lost the idea of “whole-life stewardship” taught in the Scriptures.

But it is only by embracing a more holistic view of stewardship that we can truly find our purpose and fulfill the biblical call to bring about flourishing through all we do, especially in our work.

Whole-Life Stewardship

We are often told that the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship is that God owns everything. We are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf. This is certainly true, but it still limits the biblical definition of stewardship and its ability to bring about flourishing.

Kent Wilson suggests a more complete definition of stewardship, describing it as,

…the management of resources belonging to another in order to achieve the owner’s objectives.

Note the last phrase, “in order to achieve the owner’s objectives.” We must know God’s objectives in order to achieve them. In order to know what those objectives are, we must go back to the Garden of Eden.

In the Beginning

Moses divides the creation story into two stages within the first chapter of Genesis. In the first stage, we see God creating something out of nothing:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Genesis 1:1-2).

In the second stage, the six days of creation, God forms and fills what he has created.

  • On days one through three, God forms the heavens and the earth.
  • On days four through six, he fills the heavens and the earth with inhabitants.
  • Then on the seventh day God rests from his work.

At the end of each of the first five days, God looks at his handiwork and announces that it is good. But at the end of his work of creation, at the end of the sixth day, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). John Schneider writes in his book, The Good of Affluence,

This creation that God majestically called forth into being is good. It is good in its individual parts, and it is good as a whole, as an integrated system. In fact, in this integrative cosmic sense, the text informs us that God declared it to be very good.

Here we find the first hint of God’s original intent for his creation. The purpose of God was to be glorified by his creation. This is why God describes it as “very good.” Just as a great painting reflects the glory of the master artist, God created everything for his glory, including man, the crown jewel of creation.

Does this mean that God made us and the rest of creation so that he could become more glorious in himself? No. God created the world and everything in it to display his glory, that it might be known and praised by creation (Psalm 8).

C.S. Lewis writes in his Reflections on the Psalms,

The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.

To be effective stewards of all that God has given us, we must achieve the owner’s original objective – to bring glory to himself. One of the ways we do this is by understanding how to enjoy the very goodness of God’s creation. That very goodness is best described by the Old Testament concept of shalom, which we will see in my next post is the key to understanding whole-life stewardship.


Editor’s Note: Learn more about biblical stewardship in Hugh Whelchel’s How Then Should We Work? Use code STEWARD20 to get 20% OFF this book in the IFWE bookstore

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