weekly theme #47 Wise Stewards*
week containing the Sunday between September 18-24
The mere title for this week convicts me. God has gifted me with time, and I squander it on activities with few long-term benefits. Time is not the only gift I squander. My energy is misplaced or wasted, my mind is distracted or idle, my soul’s flame is erratic, and my emotions flare and fester rather than spur positive action. Why can’t I be a wise steward in all of life? Heneri J.M. Nouwen describes it as standing on one side of a huge canyon with the godly life on the other side. I study, write, and talk about the beauty on the other side of the canyon, but I don’t seem to be able to establish myself there. Lord, plant me on the other side!
Being a wise steward doesn’t mean I’m the boss. Saint John of the Cross said that the Holy Spirit produces actions that are peaceful, gentle, and strong. Being anxious, intolerant, pessimistic, wavering or domineering are all signs of my self-directing soul. They are all responses to taking responsibilities not intended for me. When I allow God to direct, he is responsible. I am responsible to obey, and he is responsible for fruit. When I usurp his authority to direct, it leads to internal feelings and external actions that are beneath the noble qualities found in family members of the King. It is tempting to try to play the King, but it is also foolish and fatal.
What does the “wise” look like in stewardship? James 3:17 uses several adjectives to describe godly wisdom: pure, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, yielding good fruit, impartial and sincere. Two of those adjectives strike me with the meanings nestled in the Greek.
- gentle (epieikeia) – knowing when strict justice becomes unjust; able to rightly give mercy; carrying out the spirit of the law rather than the letter
- good (agathos) – inward good that produces benefit and genuinely good effects/results; appealing to our sense of morals more than to what is seen
It seems new for me to think of being a wise steward of both good and bad, but it makes sense. Stewardship involves how I treat what comes to me, and bad comes along with good. The steward of a garden must deal with both the crop and the weed. A thought, whether good or bad, takes root and bears fruit unless the steward treats each differently. How I treat the unpleasant in life may be as important as how I treat the blessings. Both can shape my attitude, beliefs, and actions. My actions, including my words, are the fruit of the inner me. (Wisdom is proved right by her actions. Matthew 11:19)
I have been a steward of people, but I have not always been a wise steward. I lapsed into using people to complete projects rather than using projects to complete people. Loving people, being a wise steward of those in my charge, is second in greatness only to loving God.
*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections. I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used. It truly lives up to its title.