I have been fortunate not to have to wear glasses to correct my vision for most of my life. But like many others who have reached a certain age, I now need glasses in order to read or see anything up close. For a time, I was managing to get by with a few pairs of inexpensive reading glasses kept in strategic locations for me to pick up and use when needed.
Reading glasses are great for reading and stationary tasks, but not for walking away from the desk or especially going down a set of stairs. And even with multiple pairs in various locations, reading glasses are not always within reach in a moment of need. Given this, I recently took the plunge and acquired a set of glasses with progressive lenses. While progressives have their own issues, when I wear these glasses they do allow me to see all distances quite clearly.
In the church, we sometimes tend to view stewardship as a topic of select verses in Scripture that can be used as the basis for a fundraising campaign. Based on what the church needs, we may quote Bible verses that are meant to encourage everyone to step up and meet those needs. Thus, stewardship is reduced to a sporadic topic for specific occasions. It’s as if we put on stewardship lenses like reading glasses that are lying around to be used only when necessary.
But what if our stewardship lenses were progressives through which we viewed the whole Bible, not just select passages at convenient times? Such lenses might reveal that a “great pattern of Scripture revolves around God’s generosity and human stewardship of the gifts God has given,” as Lutheran scholar Craig Nessan puts it.
God’s generosity and human stewardship, both good and bad, are revealed throughout the pages of the Bible, from creation, covenant and on to the exodus and law; through the monarchy and sages tumbling into psalms, the prophets and exile; throughout the incarnation, passion and resurrection; and then within the early church and beyond to the fulfillment of time. We have a Bible full of stewardship!
We can try on progressive stewardship lenses when reading the Bible by considering questions such as:
- How is God’s generosity expressed in this text?
- What human tendency—such as accumulating, hoarding or sharing—is revealed in the text?
- Is there a disconnect in this text between God’s generous nature and human activity?
- Does this text communicate a specific stewardship teaching?
- When I consider this text alongside my interaction with money and the material world, how does it make me feel?
Read this way, we discover that the Bible is not just a book that contains stewardship texts. Instead, the whole of it contains the revelation of God’s generosity, which invites a human response of appropriate stewardship in all of life.
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg office of the Mennonite Foundation of Canada. For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit www.mennofoundation.ca.