By Steve Kindle
One of the most difficult realities for American Christians to accept is that nothing, and I mean NOTHING belongs to anybody. Every thing in the universe is the Lord’s. And every person. It’s difficult because we all conduct our lives in the midst of a consumer society that rewards acquisitiveness and power over others. As the bumper sticker proudly announces, “The one with the most toys wins.” So we live our lives competing against one another, and when we win, we feel very entitled to ownership of the spoils. As one of my parishioners put it when asked to help support a local “safety net” initiative, “I worked hard for what I have and no one’s going to take it from me.”
No wonder congregations are uneasy during “Pledge Season.”
Another strong disincentive for understanding biblical stewardship is that it has largely been reduced to issues of money. Our “Stewardship Moments” are confined to urging congregants to increase their annual monetary pledges. And on a typical Sunday, the worship leader may include the “many ways we give in addition to our bills and checks,” yet, the focus is on what goes into the collection plate.
The only thing that can turn this around is a comprehensive understanding of stewardship that relocates the Christian from a consumer of church services to a caretaker in partnership with God of all that God gives us to manage on God’s behalf.
Human beings were created for a high purpose—to collaborate with God in “tilling and keeping.” To till means to derive from creation what it is intended to yield for sustenance and comfort. To keep means to manage the tilling in such a way that those generations who follow will be able to derive from tilling the same level of sustenance and comfort. This two-fold process is intended to maintain a self-sustaining world into perpetuity, but only as long as we remember who owns it, and that it is not ours to usurp for our own advantage.
God intended for Israel to be “a light to the nations,” a light that displayed for all to see how living by God’s intentions for the world would result in shalom, well-being for all. The psalmists envisioned a time when all the world would ascend the hill to Jerusalem for instruction in God’s ways. Today the church’s calling is to model a way of life built on, in Trueblood’s words, “the creation of centers of loving fellowship, which in turn infect the world.”
My book is an effort to lift up this majestic calling that we humans are privileged to undertake by looking carefully at the biblical material, coming to see the world as God would have it, see how some of the Scriptures’ traditional meanings need to be reassessed, as well as find rich meaning in otherwise overlooked verses. I even provide a sermon in the final section.
Here’s a link to a serious book review by a Bob Cornwall: http://www.bobcornwall.com/search?q=Stewardship