I’ve been thinking a lot about Christian stewardship. It’s not the most popular topic in the world, but it seems to be gaining traction in modern times.
When I think of stewardship, I think of Lord Denethor, steward of Gondor. Perhaps that’s a bit nerdy, but stick with me for a second. Lord Denethor was given stewardship over Gondor in the absence of the king, to take care of it while the true ruler was away. Now, he wasn’t a particularly good steward, and when it came time to hand back the reigns, he refused. Still, his job was to manage, care for, and tend to something that was not his. According to Scripture, humanity was created for a similar task (Gen. 2:15).
God has granted us the earth to care for and to look after as His representatives, but it isn’t just our world that God has granted to us on loan. Scripture attests to the fact that God has sovereign rule over every aspect of our lives. Our resources, our time, our money, our relationships, our jobs, our families… God has the right to reign over all of it, and He has given to us the privilege of acting as stewards.
So each and every one of us are stewards. Most of us, myself included, tend on the side of Lord Denethor, but through the work of Christ and by the power of the Spirit God is calling us as His people to return to our task of stewardship. In all of Scripture – in the parables of Christ, in the Greatest Commandment, and even in the Great Commission – God is calling us to use our time, resources, and talents wisely, and to care for and look after what He has given us.
But how do we achieve that? Like most things God requires of His people, it is easier said that done. So, here are four starter books, in no particular order, on how to better steward our time, our resources, our talents, our relationships, and our earth.
1. Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community – Wendell Berry
This book is a must in anyone’s library. With eight essays on topics ranging from environmental conservation to the tobacco industry, eighty-something year old Wendell Berry (“the Angry Farmer”) lays out his reasons for Christian stewardship, and how he thinks it ought to be accomplished. One primary focus is the Christian responsibility to care for the earth as God’s representatives, and how that relates to our local economies and our daily living.
“The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and less wasteful.” ~ Wendell Berry
2. Economy of Love: Creating a Community of Enough – Shane Claiborne and Isaac Anderson
No discussion of Christian ethics would be complete without at least one plug for Shane Claiborne, Christian activist and ordinary radical. Say what you want about his politics or his theology, the guys is prolific. In order the get a well rounded understanding of views on stewardship, it is impossible to navigate the landscape without running into his material.
Together, Claiborne and Anderson discus the common American motivation of “never enough” and suggest a different motivation for our economics: love. In this five-week study, the authors ask the question of whether or not the American Dream of Bigger-More-Better actually lines up with God’s dream for the world He created. In our stewardship of the world and our possessions, we can become closer to the God who is close to the poor, the hungry, the meek, and the lowly. This book challenges us to find joy in interdependence, building our economy on the values of love and contentment.
3. The Overload Syndrome – Richard A. Swenson
This book is all about learning to live with your limits. As human beings, we bear the Image of God, but we are not like God in every way. God is infinite; we are finite. God is boundless; we are not. Many of our environmental problems and our personal health issues (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) stem from our refusal to accept the fundamental, inescapable reality that we have limits. We want to push ourselves to the absolute max, and then keep rising above our potential. The stress is, quite literally, killing us.
Richard A. Swenson evaluates the necessity for margin in every area of our lives, including commitments, possessions, finances, work, accessibility, media, choices, change, and more. In this book, we are invited to discover the joy of living without our limits, of rest, and of saying no to excess.
“Limits were God’s intention from the beginning… As the author of limits, God put them within us for our protection. We violate them at our peril.” ~ Richard A. Swenson
4. The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey
Okay, so, I struggle a bit about whether or not to include this book. This is a finance book, after all, not a book on environmentalism or on simplicity, and I’m usually not a fan of having your face on the cover of a book, but stewardship is about more than just our stuff and the earth; it’s about our money, too. So, let’s not judge a book by the cover.
Jesus had a good deal to say about money, and it wasn’t all negative. Dave Ramsey helps to point out that money is a gift from God as much as anything else, and we are to use it wisely and hold it loosely. In order to be generous with our wealth, we have to have enough organization in place to be out of debt and have money available to spend in prodigal ways. That’s what this book is about.
If you struggle with budgeting or debt, if you feel guilty when the offering plate comes around or tension when you hear about various nonprofits because you’re just not sure what you’ve got to give, this is the book for you. It certainly did wonders for me.
So, there you have it, four books to get you started on the right path and lay a foundation for Christian stewardship in all areas of our lives. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and by no means do I agree with everything in any of these books, but reading these four will provide a more than adequate introduction into the discussion of Christian stewardship.
Did I lead any of your favorites out? Comment below with your suggestions!
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