Stewardship – God’s original plan?

I’m not quite sure where all this topic will go, and I’ll probably write a few posts about it as I think it requires a multi-faceted exploration. These musings were provoked by some blog posts by Martin Scott a couple of months ago. He posited stewardship as the appropriate governing perspective (my terminology) for the Body of Christ over against nationalism and patriotism. I really liked that idea straight away as it put words to the uneasiness I’ve often felt with patriotism; particularly in the way I’ve found it expressed within the Body of Christ.

Simply questioning patriotism in many circles is unheard of and indeed negatively provocative. I’m less interesting in stirring up a hornets nest however, by attacking patriotism, per se, than I am in exploring what stewardship could really mean in its fullest expression. My thought is that for the follower of Jesus, living a full expression of stewardship would make patriotism a lot less energizing.

Obviously the working definition of all these words can be hard to pin down and can lead to a fair amount of heated discussion. I’ll try to explain my terms as I’m using them as I go. That doesn’t mean everybody has to agree with me, of course.

I titled this Stewardship – God’s original plan? because I believe this really begins back in Genesis 1:26,28 with God’s creation of the cosmos and man. I believe that God gave Adam (and then with Eve) a small (?) parcel of land to steward (Genesis 2:8,15). I tend to think that the Garden of Eden was a “partially tamed” land to teach mankind some essential truths about how this whole thing – life, creation, relationship with God, etc. – was supposed to work…with the idea that these experiential understandings were to be applied to the rest of God’s creation. What was it that they were to understand? Certainly a lot more than I can imagine, but here’s a short list oriented to what I’d like to discuss:

  • God’s creation is a living gift
  • The gift is given, with love, by our Heavenly Papa to us
  • Like all life in the current created order, it needs investment to flourish – a lack of investment will either kill it or cause it to grow malignantly/incorrectly
  • God provides for us
  • One of the chief ways that He intends to provide for us is via the creation He gives us as a gift

To summarize, He set up Creation and Man in Creation to have a symbiotic relationship. Man helps Creation flourish and Creation’s life becomes life-giving for Man. All of this is intended to be in a context of a growing relationship with God as Father. The joyful, probably limitless, treasure hunt that God has instilled in the created order is there to provide us and Him joy as we seek His heart and and He reveals clues to us as to how His Creation works. He desires that we mature and become more and more creative and loving just like Him. I also happen to think that this maturation process is part of preparing a Bride for Jesus…i.e. a creative Body of Christ to be equally yoked to the Creator for eternity…but that’s another story! 😉

More next time…

Did he forget to name the snake?

In the last couple of years I’ve been brought repeatedly to Genesis 1:28 where the most fundamental of God’s intentions for human life on Earth is expressed. The first command given to humans is to be fruitful and multiply and to take dominion over all of Creation. As the Lord has been increasingly saying to the Church, we are to be bearing reproducible fruit and engaging in every sphere of creation as ambassadors for His Kingdom.

This truth has touched many in so-called “full-time” ministry with a new call to enter/return to the “secular” workforce. There is a realization that our penchant for staying within the 4 walls of the Church is much too strong and that in so doing, we’re not, in general, obeying this Creation Commandment. As a “full-time missionary”, I’ve been listening to these messages and posing the same question to myself. Is God calling me to return to the workforce? Here in France? Elsewhere? Why? Why not? Certainly financial challenges add to the desire to reflect on this possibility!

As I’ve blogged about before, this school year came, for me, with much uncertainty as to what God wanted me to be doing. Our engagements here have been fairly varied so that there were any number of things that I could be involved in and certainly not lack for things to keep myself busy. Keeping busy is not my highest aim though and so I was definitely “knockin’, seekin’, askin'” about God’s will. Well, the Lord has been faithful not just in answering that prayer but also, in my opinion, my questioning prayer about a return to “professional” life.

This year at school it became obvious that the computing environment had evolved to a point where it needed to be managed by someone and not just left to evolve haphazardly. I’ve now taken that responsibility and it has been enlightening.

In this role in a Christian school, currently not paid and fairly full-time, I am really marrying two calls on my life:

  1. Information Technology professional
  2. Missionary

That to me is exciting as I’ve never doubted our call to the mission field, nor that I was doing what I was made to do during my 16 years in IT before the mission field. I can’t say that I’ll be doing it forever, but I see a real convergence of God’s plan and timing in all of this. Many more details than I could possibly get into now.

Well what does all that have to do with Gen 1:28?

During my career years I developed a sense of how I work best and what are my strengths and what are my weaknesses. When I look back, though I was an “engaged Christian” at the time, I believe that my weaknesses kept me from really taking dominion for the Kingdom of God in my workplace. I’ve been saddened by this for some time as I’ve realized that in some ways those were years that the locusts nibbled on a bit.

My strengths got me to a position as a Database Administrator for a medium-sized IT shop. At one point, I was the lead on a small team of DBAs. I had a fair amount of Independence and I really enjoy working that way. However, I have a weakness with task and time prioritization such that I’m prone to spend lots of time on technological bunny trails and in the end, while I may gain greater understanding of something, I end up scrambling to get the work done! Not good and definitely not a case of “taking dominion”.

In this new role as IT coordinator at our school, I’m even more independent. At the moment I’m pretty much a “one-man-show”.

As I’ve been diving into IT work again, I’m faced again with my weaknesses and the memory of the “years the locusts have eaten”. I have a deep desire in my heart to redeem those years and to bring Kingdom dominion into the IT world. I’ve advanced enough to lean more on the Lord and less on my own understanding…already important progress. But, I’m finding that there is “sneaky time-creep” in my task prioritization. In a situation where priorities are not rigid and I set my own course, I do find that I choose more often the interesting technological challenges than spending time on what needs to be done the most.

In reflecting on this and the work mandate in general that Adam was given, I think I noticed something.

In the Garden, Adam was given the job of naming the animals and cultivating the garden. When you name something, you are exercising ultimate authority over it. You are giving it its identity; deciding its destiny. We’ve lost much of the significance of this in Western culture (though that doesn’t make it less true). When you think about the fact that Adam was given the task of taking authority over the garden by cultivating it and taking authority over the animals by giving them names, and that then it was an animal that slithered through the weeds that tricked Adam into giving away his authority, it makes you wonder…

Did Adam forget to name the snake?

Did Adam see the big ferocious lion and decide that it was more exciting and necessary to name this lion? Did he neglect his duty in weeding to admire the beautiful tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

Did the unappealing parts of Adam’s career in animal husbandry and agriculture cause him to ignore his responsibilities in them such that they created an opening for the Fall? Did the lack of stewardship and integrity in responsibility in Adam’s career create the environment for Original Sin?

Personally, I think that this battle that I’m in my work life has deep significance…both for me individually and as a human called to take dominion in creation.

I intend to not let the same mistake (Adam’s and mine) happen again. I, of course, can’t do it myself and I’m thrilled that the “leaning” on the Lord is becoming more of my M.O. than trying to solve all problems myself. I’m looking forward to seeing how God will redeem this part of His Creation and how He’ll use me in it.

Here’s to taking dominion for the Kingdom of God in the workforce! May Jesus be glorified in all we set our hand to.