Christian Stewardship offers
of principles to live by
The New Year, with its resolutions and promises, gave me occasion to reflect on Christian Stewardship and what it offers us.
The first benefit I identified is that CS gives us a discrete set of principles by which we can live. This is particularly important as we find ourselves in an increasingly areligious culture that shuns traditional moral and ethical standards in favor of moral relativism. As a reminder, CS asks us to:
Treat everything in our lives as a precious gift from God that we receive with joy and thanksgiving.
Honor each gift by treating it with the respect and dignity we would extend to its giver.
Share each gift freely and generously.
Preserve and prosper each gift — knowing that we must return it to God with an increase.
When I examine these principles, I am struck by their universality — their broad applicability to any and every human interaction. If we understand these principles and use them to guide our thoughts, actions and motives, they will have a powerful, transformative effect on our lives — making us into good citizens, good neighbors and exceptional witnesses for Christ.
The second benefit of living as Christian stewards is that this way of living clarifies our relationships with God and the world in which we live. In a world full of daunting global issues that span national borders and socio-economic regions, we can each feel impotent and insignificant.
The question is, "What can I do?" "What is my responsibility?" CS says we are neighbors to one another and to the other creatures with whom we share this world. There is no next town, next state or other country. There is only neighbor.
It says we are God's stewards — responsible to him for the care and welfare of this world and all that is in it. What happens in the Arctic, Beijing or the Brazilian rainforest is still here in this world in which we each are stewards.
CS says each of us — every day — in ways grand and small, must embrace that identity and discharge it responsibly.
The third benefit of CS is that it answers the question "What is the purpose of life?" True, it doesn't necessarily specify what career path one should take or what academic major one should choose. But, CS certainly provides a better framework for reflection and consideration of those things than the pursuit of wealth, power or political influence. In a world of rampant materialism and religious ambivalence, CS offers sound, principled guidance that can balance some of the confusing, disorienting messages we receive from the world around us.
The major caveat to living a CS life can be found in the definition of steward, as found at dictionary.com: "…a person who acts as the surrogate of another or others, especially by managing property, financial affairs, and estate, etc."
And there is the rub — at least for some. CS says we are not in charge, ultimately. It says we work for our creator, and our lives, our things, our thoughts, even our bodies are not ours. They are God's. We are God's, and this changes everything. It's not a popular philosophy; especially in this American culture that so lionizes independence and self-determination.
CS makes us responsible to someone beyond ourselves. It asks us to care about concerns beyond our own wants and desires. It says that we must consider the impact our actions may have on those around us, those to come after us and, ultimately, to the welfare of the precious world God has left in our care.
(Walt Sears is a lay ecclesial minister in the Diocese of Oakland.)
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