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The role of free will in Christian Stewardship

An advocate for the young

placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
The role of free will in Christian Stewardship

Recently, I’ve received several questions about the role of free will in stewardship. It is true that God asks us to be good stewards in our lives and that our Christian calling is to fulfill God’s will. It is also true that the spirit of stewardship, if embraced to the fullest extent, can affect virtually every area of our lives — what we think, what we say, what we do, how we use resources, our relationship with God and, our relationship with others and the world.

However, the all-encompassing nature of stewardship and the imperative to follow God’s will doesn’t mean we give up free will with all its benefits and consequences.

Roman Catholic doctrine says free will along with a soul and intellect are gifts that are endowed to each human being (CCC 1711). So, the question is: How do we express the gift of free will, moment by moment, as Christian stewards seeking to fulfill God’s will?

In his “Summa Theologiae” (“Theological Compendium”), one of the great doctors of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas states, “Everything seeks its own perfection. . . . All things, by desiring their own perfection desire God himself . . . [who as] the first effecting cause of all things . . . directs their good and perfect end” (I,6,1 & 2).

St. Thomas is saying that in creating the world, God, the Creator of all, placed within every creature a design that reflects God’s perfect vision for what that creature should do and be in this world. The Oracle from the popular motion picture trilogy, “The Matrix,” said much the same thing when she specified that everything has programming that governs it — birds, trees, the wind, sunrise and sunset. . . . As she stated, “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do.”

What St. Thomas goes on to indicate is that we have within ourselves the potency or potential to image God — be the image of God — be part of God’s goodness. But, this capacity is potential and it remains only potential unless we choose to act on it. It is only when we act on that potential, by virtue of our free will, and choose goodness, righteousness, peace, compassion and truth that we become conscious agents of God.

As Christian Stewards we do not become mindless robots or automatons. We do not lose our free will. Each moment of every day, we use our free will to make choices that may or may not be consistent with Christian Stewardship. The choices are not always between good or bad. Sometimes they are between better and best — and they are ours to make. Though we believe that choosing to be a good steward often brings great joy and fulfillment, it doesn’t come without challenges.

It is not always the easiest path or the path chosen by the mainstream. It is quite often even counter-cultural, but it is the path that Christ walked. We trust that, in the end, if we have done well, our stewardship will be a free and loving expression of our relationship with God.

Catholic doctrine says, “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God.” (CCC 1731).

We have the choice to be a steward of God or not — to be a disciple of Christ or not — to choose life, the good and righteousness, or not. What is your choice?

(Walt Sears represents region 2 on the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Council and is a member of the diocesan stewardship commission.)

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