Christian Stewardship Should be About More than Just Money
July 5, 2016
Christian Stewardship is an important, biblical and theological concept. The word stewardship is derived from the Greek word oikonómos which means the manager (or steward) of the household or of household affairs. Christian Stewardship is really God's call to the people of God to be responsible for his household - the creation. In the book of Genesis, we are told that God created humankind and the human community needs to be responsible for the governance of the created order. To put it another way, human beings are co-creators with the Creator. This responsibility is a privilege that means that human beings are entrusted with the management and trusteeship of God's creation.
I hasten to add, this does not mean that human beings have ownership of the creation. What it does mean is that we are given the role of care and nurturing and to be responsible for our fellowman - "to be our brothers and sisters keepers" and to treat God's creation with justice and integrity. We are not to abuse or misuse what God has created. The whole creation must experience the justice, the peace and integrity which was given to it.
Unfortunately, humankind has reneged on its responsibility. Human beings have abused one another and misused God's creation. Human beings have done violence to each other and violated God's world. St. Paul aptly states "that the whole creation groans in travail". Christian stewardship calls upon the redeemed community (this redemption is made possible by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection) to act as God's agent of transformation and reconciliation. There are two words which remind us of our responsibilities and vocation of our Christian stewardship, they are: Ubuntu taken from African spirituality and philosophy while Ahimsa is an ancient Sanskrit word and an important tenet of three (3) major religions - Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Ubuntu was at the core of Nelson Mandela's and Desmond Tutu's struggle against the dehumanizing and demonic system of apartheid. At the most basic level, it is a Zulu word which means to be human. But it also expresses the idea that one cannot be a human being unless one ensures others are human. Therefore, when one does violence to our fellow man whether physically, psychologically, culturally or otherwise, we are less than human. A human being is only human when he is allowing his fellowman to be human. In his book No Future Without Forgiveness, Desmond Tutu writes:
Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human. [We] say [...] "Hey, so- and-so has ubuntu." Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons
Franz Fanon the Martinique-born psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary and writer also expressed the same idea. Fanon asserts that if we attempt to dehumanize another human being, we become victims of our own dehumanisation.
In my earlier article on New Years Resolutions, I encouraged my readers to adopt four (4) extra New Years resolutions aimed not at our own selfish interests but at making this world a better place. The first of these was a call to help our fellow human beings to be more human. I expressed the hope we should to make 2016 the year where we would become more involved in efforts to help others. I noted that the impetus starts from the heart and it does not require of a lot of material resources and skills but the time you spend with your fellow humans may be the most valuable asset. We should also make efforts to spread the word and to get our friends, workmates and families involved in efforts to make our fellow humans feel more human.
Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi used the ancient Sanskrit word ahimsa to affirm that all life is sacred, and when one does violence to another human, not only does one violate the other person, but one does not live by the truth. This is the concept of truth force or Satyagraha. In our article on W.H Audens Christmas Oratorio, we are reminded us that the three wise men really followed the star to learn from Jesus how to be human. Christian Stewardship means that human beings have the responsibility to ensure that all of life is given its worth in respect and dignity. This responsibility is not merely an individual one, but it is the task of the whole people of God and in particular, the community of faith.
This responsibility is integral to the Mission of God, which is therefore the Mission of the Church. The Mission of God is the raisons d'être of the Church. Mission is God's vision for the Church. But the Mission Enterprise cannot be fulfilled by one denomination, but by the body of Christ. The Mission of God demands that from the whole Church in its diversity and differences. Our Lord's Prayer in John 17:21 is that:
that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
In practical terms, the whole people must invest in the mission of God. God has given us his gifts to invest in his mission. Mission is making known in word and deed, God's plan of redemption which involves all sorts of God's people and the whole creation.
The investment of God means to offer human resources as well as our financial capital. These investments are necessary for God's economy of salvation to be realised and to experience God's people everywhere. In the Gospel there is a parable which is popularly known as the parable of talents [Matthew 25:14-30] I like to call it the parable of investments. The parable invites God's people to invest their resources whether it's five, two or one to realise God's gifts in his Kingdom. The parable ends with this warning:
For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth