Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Digesting God's Idea of Stewardship

The following is an assignment for an upcoming college course, The Quest for Stewardship & Ethical Responsibility. The purpose of this writing was to discuss my impressions of Luke 12:48. Recently I have been considering what the Biblical definition of stewardship is, and how it relates to business. The conclusion I've come to, is that stewardship really is the same thing as creating value, or a return on investment. Just as shareholders expect a profit, and entrepreneurs expect a decent return, God has entrusted us with many things, and He expects a return with added value. As discussed in the paper, most things decompose when left on their own without some type of cultivation or management.

Consider money. If not invested properly, money will inevitably lose value, due to inflation. We have several choices. We can work for money, and spend it on items which depreciate. We can work for money and then keep it, allowing it to depreciate. If this is done, the money will soon be worth less than the work which was exerted to earn it. The other alternative is to work for money, and then allow the money to make more money. This is obviously the best scenario.

Or consider the forest. We can look at it all day long, and ignore it's many resources. But this is far from the best utilization. We can cut the timber, kill it's herds and eat it's plants. But without some form of management, it's resources will soon become depleted. The best scenario, again, is active management which allows the utmost utilization of resources, while allowing the forest to renew itself.

God has given us many things, but "as-is", they are all subject to depreciation or growth, depending on our management. So here goes my take (if you haven't gotten it already!). Hope you enjoy...

In chapter 12 of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to his disciples, describing how people are prone to become worried, greedy, or apathetic. Jesus admonishes them to live and think counter intuitively, confident of God’s future provision, and grateful for what He has done. His next words are as uncomfortable today as I’m sure they were centuries ago:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
(vs. 48)

What are we supposed to do with this? I believe in reading this passage, there are three ideas I must examine. First, I must do a personal inventory. I must ask, “With what have I been entrusted?” Though the passage uses the metaphor of a steward managing his master’s maids and maidservants, we can look far beyond our professions when answering this question. Personally, I have been entrusted with a wife, wisdom from my parents and in-laws, a profession in law enforcement, money, friendships, opportunities, and so on. The list is endless. There are countless people and things that God has blessed me with. But He has not merely given them to me without precondition. That brings me to the second idea I must consider.

I must know that I am an active manager, not a temporary possessor. Like plants, most things will die without cultivation. For example, consider marriage, friendships, money or education. Each of these require active management. A marriage will not last without hard work. Friendships will become distant, money will inevitably become worth less, and education will become obsolete. The owner of these things must consistently manage or add value to these things.

The third idea we must embrace is that there will one day be reckoning for the ways in which we managed God’s “estate”. We all must one day answer for the ways in which we did or did not apply His principles to the things He entrusted to us.

Much like an investor or business expects a return on investment, God is expecting that we not just offer back His gifts in a depreciated state. We are to add value to and enhance the gifts and responsibilities with which we are entrusted.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

103 days come to an end...

Tomorrow is the day. It is the end of a 103 day pursuit of Tennessee whitetails. It’s interesting to consider the internal struggle I’ve fought over the past two weeks. I know many of you really aren’t interested in deer hunting, and could probably care less if I succeed in what is really a blip on the map, considering the complexity of life. But what I’ve experienced, I believe, is common to all people everywhere who are intent on succeeding. It is the fight against our own minds, to stay in the game, whatever that game is.

It seems to me that perhaps the greatest reason for failure is thoughts of failure. It feels unnatural, pompous, presumptuous to envision success, not once, but as a way of life. Consider professional sports. An NBA player toes up to the free throw line and watches the ball sink into the net many times before he actually looses the ball. It would be ludicrous to expect anything else.

For the past two weeks, it’s been easy to rise at 4:30 for work. I have to. The consequences of not showing up aren’t pleasant. But to voluntarily crawl out of a warm bed at 5:30 to slip into a pair of bibs and fleece and make my way into the woods. After being consistently tricked by the area’s bucks. After blowing two cake shots. After having the wildlife sightings trickle to near zero. I’ve convinced myself to abandon the woods only minutes after sunup. I’ve snoozed, and sometimes turned the clock off completely. It’s easy to imagine how unlikely it is to kill a good buck when you haven’t yet. And it’s easy to imagine how good it would feel to crawl back into bed when it’s right behind you. With your wife in it. And a soft pillow.

So in this mental battle, I’ve considered quitting. But I know that if I do, I’ll always ask, “What if? What if I didn’t quit? What if I went to the woods one more time?” In my mind, quitting would make me a quitter. And that is something I am not.
Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I know three things that I did not know last year.

1. I know the habits of the deer on this specific property.
2. I know myself better.
3. I know the rewards of success will be greater next year than they were
this year.

I guess my point is this. In life, we all have competitors, quarry, prey, whatever you want to call it. Understanding our competition is vital in rising to the top. But equally, if not more important, is our ability to identify the effect our pessimistic minds can have on the outcome. To succeed, we all must keep our minds in the game until opportunity comes.