While studying through the Gospels in early 2020, with some very dear friends at church, we made it through some portions on being a faithful servant or steward, just as the state was about to close all churches and issue curfews and order that you only be near immediate family members that dwell in your home. It was such a riveting discussion, as we pondered the upcoming demand that we no longer gather for the good of the masses. You can see the notes from that study here.
Stewardship, vocation, glorifying God in all we do–these are all things that Christ’s followers will think through, on some level. (Vocation is not your job, but that is another discussion for another day) Like much of the Christian life, we will grow in our understanding of stewardship as we grow in grace and knowledge.
After reading Joel Salatin’s The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs, I have wanted to reorganize my own thoughts on the matter of stewardship, as this book has expanded my view. The LORD will hold us responsible, not only for our own stewardship–but also for how we train up the next generation in this.
Am I up to the task of training my children in this?
Thoughts from Genesis 1, and some Psalms; We reflect God as we tend, care for, exercise compassionate dominion over the planet He created, and all that He created therein. As we look at His creation, we see: Order. Beauty. Goodness. We know that because of the fall, the task set before us is more difficult, but partnering with God in this means we will be: Pruning. Weeding, knowing tares will exist. Nourishing. Ruling for the good of others, not only self; but in such a way as to care for self: food, clothing, shelter, having enough to bless your children and grandchildren (which means we detest debt as much as God does). We are still filling and exercising dominion over the earth.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”Genesis 1:26-28
Adam and Eve were given the vocation of having dominion over, or ruling over, all that God created–plants, animals, birds, sea creatures, etc. They were to foster life, not destroy it, or merely control it. There was never to be an intention of ‘taking advantage’ or ‘taking for granted.’ When acting, they were to take into account the reactions and consequences to their actions. They were commanded to fill the earth, so ecologists and others who say ‘too many humans!’ are not to be our role models or spokesman. We listen to the Creator, not to the ones experimenting on humans, controlling and trying to keep down the population, pantheists who mistakenly worship creation, or any who contradict God’s design for families, communities, and land use.
What you do in your little sphere matters. Like our first parents, we too are responsible for our actions, and all the outcomes of those actions. When making decisions, we should look at future ramifications. Does this foster flourishing? Or, is to my good, but to the detriment and destruction of others?
How does Dominion Relate to Stewardship?
To understand what God desires for us as faithful stewards, please pause here to reflect on Matthew 24-25, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+24-25&version=NASB
Some mistakenly believe that stewardship only applies to money. Others have mistakenly believed it applies only to ‘soul’ issues, and the salvation of as many people as possible.
The Scriptures teach that we are required to faithfully steward all aspects of life: how I care for and nourish and use my body, how I care for and nourish and use my heart/mind, how I care for and ‘fan to flame’ (1 Timothy) and use the gifts and talents He’s given me, how I care for and use my resources (i.e. time, money, possessions, etc), how I care for and use the bit of land I live on; and also how I interact with/impact the world at large: His creation (whether plants, animals, water, minerals, soil, etc), with my neighbor (remember who your neighbor is?), with my family, and especially with the household of faith (Galatians 6).
What do I have that I have not received?
Do I fear God in the same manner the author of Ecclesiastes, who hides from God and merely looks after himself, much like the third character in Jesus’ parable of the talents hiding that which was given until the Master’s return? Or do I fear Him with the proper reverence due His Name, knowing how Magnificent He is, and wanting to please Him by actually using wisely what I have received from Him?
Being a faithful steward is much more full and robust than knowing the rules and keeping them. This is not about list making, and rule keeping. In fact, knowing the rules and keeping them–apart from having a heart that delights in them–is completely contrary! (Psalm 119 will refresh you in this)
When God begins His good work in us, He removes our dead heart and gives us a new and living one; a heart that is being renewed to a true knowledge, a heart that loves what He loves, and delights to walk with Him. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” (John 10:27-28). We follow Him, we imitate Him (Ephesians 5), we grow to be more like Him…
And faithfulness begins to flow out of us in thought, word, and deed (though not perfectly).
I’ll not be discussing each aspect in depth, there is not space enough here, that would require a book to do it justice. Rather, I want to encourage you to dig deep into what God desires for us as stewards, with a focus on what I’m recently contemplating from the aspect of farming.
In conversation my husband recently stated “I’m done with the disconnect.” And it was like fireworks going off in my inmost being. We do not steward well, because we are so disconnected, fragmented, individuals trying to stay separate, and compartmentalizing all our thoughts. We cannot separate our “Christian life” from any other part of our life. We are all in; we are His.
My life is hid in Christ, I will glorify Him in all that I am, all that I have, all that I say or do. Or at least, I will pray in the Spirit relying on His strength to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good deed and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience.” (Col. 1:9ff)
Disconnected, compartmentalized, fragmented.
Examine yourself, see if you be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13). This could be a time to examine in which aspects of life do you come under God’s kingship, and in which areas of life are you all too American trying to be independent, keeping something back from allowing God’s Reign. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy, which I am sure you know, yet in the US we sometimes get that muddled.
Curious, I looked up “PCA stewardship” and was encouraged. It was a rather long document, from 1981, so here I only quote snippets:
Stewardship is first and foremost a personal matter. Each believer has a ministry (Mt. 24:14-30) in the pursuit of which he arranges his life in conformity with God’s declared will, responding to His covenant call of grace.
As was his Lord, the Christian is a servant (Isa 53, Phil. 2:4-11). …Our servanthood must be seen as sonship, for, like the father of the prodigal son, God is more interested in having sons than slaves (Rom. 8:12-17).
As Jesus Christ served our deepest needs, so our stewardship is to serve the deepest needs of others. Neighbor-love is paramount in the stewardship picture… Each Christian has talents and abilities. These are God-appointed and give us opportunities for service. Jesus spoke of such opportunities (Mt. 25:15; Mark 13:34, as did Paul (Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:4-16). Christians are responsible to test their capacity, rather than go on haphazardly trying to fill needs as they arise, or attempting too much…https://www.pcahistory.org/pca/studies/3-457.html (accessed May, 2022)
This document summarizes so many beautiful passages, establishing the idea that stewardship involves our hearts being united to Christ, and serving as He did. Viewing ourselves as sons, and servants, who have been given gifts and talents to be used for the good of others. They even include a bit about the importance of women in the church. The document then spends a lot of space discussing financial stewardship.
I was encouraged by what I read, but, I would add that stewardship includes how we ‘steward’ our temporal home. We are to be grateful. We are to be in awe of our Creator, and praising Him for His works. We should enjoy this planet, and care for this planet. The Dominion Mandate, as some call it, is not a call to pridefully believe that it doesn’t matter what I do for I am human–and more important than other creatures or creations. This is pride. Where is the gratitude? Where is the humble acknowledgement of His Kingship?
The fact is, we are His supreme creation, the ones created in His Image, and restored to that image through Christ’s work on the cross, and given a glorious calling to join God in keeping order, beauty and goodness; in care for and tending; but not abusing, neglecting, destroying, or letting chaos reign on this earth.
A few particulars on how to ‘care’ for our temporal home.
When spending even just a dollar: Do you support, with your dollars, a company that destroys the planet? Do you, with your dollars, support companies that use slave labor? Do you make decisions with a narrow focus (e.g. getting a good deal)?
Do you recognize that God has always cared for all of His creation, do you share that passion? Israel was punished for not treating the land well, do you know that God cares about how you treat your yard? Does that chemical fertilizer and weed killer, which kills insects and seeps into the ground water, killing marine life, and sickening humans along the way, really glorify God?
We used to live on such a tight budget, that everything had to be on sale, manager special, or super cheap. So I know what it is like to feel like I can’t possibly have any other focus than merely feeding my family. However, when we are honest, we were in that position because I had bought into the hip and trendy idea that I could use credit cards and get a car loan and take out student loans because that is what Americans do. And God graciously gave us the wisdom and patience to get out from under that mess, even while tithing.
In Salatin’s book, he covers the myth “if we want to feed the poor, we must use industrial farming.” He shows in such a grand and beautiful and accessible way, that industrial farming has led to the problems that we are attempting to use industrial farming to address; when it is regenerative farming practices that would not only heal the trauma to the land and seas and insects and animals caused by industrial farming (as well as all the gut problems now experienced by most Americans) but would very adequately feed our nation and others!!! This is exciting stuff–please go buy that book. (P.S. the food grown on/in regenerative soil also has much higher nutrient content!)
Over the past few years, we have spent time finding local farms that use regenerative practices, and treat animals humanely, and steward the land well. We began to keep backyard chickens (which I know not everyone can) because eating eggs from chickens who do not eat corn or live off of antibiotics is so much healthier for humans. If you cut out a lot of junk food, and limit eating out, and plan, you can afford the raw milk, the grass fed beef, the pasture raised pork, the pasture raised eggs, the organic wheat, etc.
What joy there is in slowing down. Stewardship involves time. Not making the most of it, or being a slave to the clock, or trying to turn all of life into convenience–but walking with Jesus at His pace (3mph or less); reclining at the table to enjoy fellowship, cooking and cleaning in ways that honor the life He has granted you.
Stewardship involves slowing down, enjoying the moment, and abiding in Him, consciously. Trim your wick, keep your lamps full of oil. When Christ returns, let Him find you faithfully serving in all aspects, with His wisdom and knowledge and skill. Stewards will be devoted to the proper ‘things’ and enjoy the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Even in your little lawn, or with your small purchases, or your seemingly mundane decisions.
Do my words, deeds, and desires reject my Creator and King? Do my words, deeds and desires honor, magnify, and celebrate my Creator and King, and show the graciousness of His reigning in me? Do I treat this planet, my vocation, my body, my money, my time, etc as expendable, or as a treasured, undeserved, most delightful gift, albeit temporal?
Does my little corner of this temporal home show His restorative and redemptive power–or does it reflect a nonchalance, uncaring and slowly giving in to death attitude?
Do I image God by showing mercy, compassion, creativity, care, devotion, wisdom, etc? Or do I cover up His image by attempting to make meaning apart from His revealed will? Or by subduing the earth for my own purposes? Or subduing by unjust, uncaring, destructive means? How so (in all these questions answered in the affirmative)?