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
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.)