Stewardship and Discipleship: Two Sides of the Same CoinBy Brett Elder
“...there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” - Abraham Kuyper
These words, penned by the Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper nearly one hundred years ago, powerfully convey the essence of holistic biblical stewardship. Kuyper understood that effective stewardship and intentional discipleship are two sides of the same coin.
Christians today urgently need to revive their commitment to whole-life discipleship. Millions of churchgoers are “Christians” for only an hour a week—Christianity is something they do on Sunday morning rather than a way of life. The withering of discipleship is one of the gravest threats facing the Church today.
Recovering a Holistic Theology of Stewardship
It is urgent for the future of the Church that we recover a whole-life model of discipleship that understands every legitimate human activity as responding to a call from God. Every human being is called to be, in all of life, a steward of God’s creation.
In most churches today, stewardship only means giving and volunteering at church. But the biblical model of stewardship encompasses how we cultivate the entire world. Whatever you do, Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, work heartily, because whatever you do you are serving the Lord Christ! Our individual discipleship, our church communities, and our witness to society at large must recover a holistic theology of stewardship and calling. We must reintegrate our model of discipleship with the call to cultivate the world.
So often in our church-going experience we hear stewardship messages that speak to the issue of what we have been called to steward. Much of the dialogue in Christian circles revolves around how we are called to exercise stewardship. Even in the unlikely setting of politics today, there is a vague understanding that we must be good stewards. Pastors and presidents alike invoke the word stewardship to reflect our responsibility toward something.
For the Church, the term stewardship has become synonymous with giving, fundraising, or capital campaigns. For much of the world, the first stewardship responsibility that comes to mind is environmental conservation. Younger generations immediately gravitate toward issues of social justice (poverty, human trafficking, etc.) when speaking about stewardship. All of these things represent important facets of stewardship.
But there are two more fundamental questions to answer in order to understand stewardship in all its fullness.
First, who exactly are we managing for? By definition, stewardship is the management of someone else's property or affairs. This very definition requires a definitive answer to this question of who. Throughout the Bible, it is God who is crying out, "Mine." Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the earth and all who live in it...”
Brett Elder is executive director of the Stewardship Council.