When I was asked to write about the theme of Stewardship–and in particular with relation to Justice–my first reaction was that I was honored to take on this task. My second reaction was, “What the heck do Stewardship and Justice have to do with one another??!!” I thought it best to define what we mean when we say “Stewardship.” What exactly is a steward? The most applicable definitions provided by Mr. Webster would be the following:
“steward – one appointed to supervise the provision and distribution of food and drink in an institution ; one who actively directs affairs”
That helps us understand a little bit more about what a steward might be (although not completely in terms of our community of faith). Now we can look at the word stewardship to look for more clarity, and I do believe there is a definition that can be viewed through our lens of faith:
“stewardship – the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care; the conducting, supervising, or managing of something”
Now this is a definition I can begin to understand and a good starting point. If we are going to practice stewardship, then we must practice with care and responsibility. We can also read from the definition that something has been entrusted to our care. But what is it that has been placed in our care to manage and who entrusted it to us? I believe that what has been give to our care for careful and responsible management is life itself. The time, talents, and wealth that we have been given are ours to manage and this “gift of life” has been granted to us by our Creator. The New International Reader’s Version of 1 Peter 4:10 I believe provides the best Biblical direction for stewardship:
1 Peter 4:10 – God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully.
We have each been given the gift of life from God the Creator and we must use it faithfully. As I mentioned earlier, this gift of life includes the time we are given, the talents we have been given, and the wealth we have been given. These gifts will not be the same for every person, but each of us has been given some part of all life’s gifts. So how do we use them faithfully and specifically in terms of Justice?? Again, before we can understand that we need to know what justice is and will refer to Webster again for a strict definition:
“justice – the quality of being just, impartial, or fair; the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action and conformity to this principle or ideal”
So if we are to practice the idea of Justice, then we should conform to the principle of “just dealing” and “right action.” That is a great concept, but I find myself still questioning, “What does it mean to practice justice in terms of our community of faith?” In combing the Bible for a useful definition or instruction, I came across Proverbs 31:8-9 and 1 John 3:17-18, which for me really brings to light what it means to seek justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIRV) – Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Speak up for the rights of all those who are poor. Speak up and judge fairly. Speak up for the rights of those who are poor and needy.
1 John 3:17-18 (NIRV) – Suppose someone sees a brother or sister in need and is able to help them. If he doesn’t take pity on them, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, don’t just talk about love. Put your love into action. Then it will truly be love.
So, as faithful stewards of the gift of life granted to us by God, our Creator, in the terms of justice, our instructions are clear. We should not just talk about love, but put love into action. We should speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves and we should speak up for the rights of the poor and destitute. We as a community of faith should not just talk about justice, but we should act justly. I feel so fortunate to be a part of a community of faith here at National Avenue, where we have so many opportunities to practice Justice. From our efforts through the Rainbow Network to build homes in Hilapo Dos, to our volunteers that work each week at Bill’s Place to provide meals to those in need, to our Gallery Shows were the proceeds help orphanages in Haiti, to our weekly service where everyone is welcome, NACC is continuously looking for opportunities to put our love into action.