THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEAL OF WORK IS STEWARDSHIP
What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 ESV) So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? (Ecclesiastes 3:22 ESV)
Now that the scriptures have spoken, let us begin this study this morning by describing to you why “THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEAL OF WORK IS STEWARDSHIP!”
Work is something we all do day in and day out. But if I ask you, do you really know what work is and why we are all called to the task of doing it? You would automatically answer the question by saying in the affirmative; “of course I know what work is.” Do you think that I am that stupid, when I have to get up every day and do it? To begin with, please indulge me for a moment and allow me to provide you with a few basic facts about this word work. “Work is a means by which we glorify God by fulfilling our calling; work is a means to love God by loving our neighbor; work is a means by which we learn and understand our need for God; work provides for our needs and benefits the community.
For at least eight hours a day, forty hours a week, two thousand hours a year, and one hundred thousand hours a lifetime, nearly every one of us works. By comparison, even death and taxes seem less certain. So why do we spend so much time working when it seems in today’s technology world there is so much more to do than to spend all our time working. But if we didn’t work, what would we call the things we do to get what we want? What would it all be about? In order to clarify this, let us understand how work came into existence.
Work first begins when God created the heavens and the earth. He worked for six days, with light and atoms and dirt and fire and water, the elemental, and he was satisfied. He worked and, stepping back from the results saw that it was good. To drive home the point, he repeated himself. Other than the work itself, God did not need to manufacture a reason for working.
In his image and after his model, God created man, in part, to work: “The lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15). God’s first assignment to mankind was this: “WORK.” Uncorrupted by the perversions of sin and death, work had to be good—very good. An ideal as high as God is wide, work was no less than the sharing of divine privilege. God asked that we work as he did so that his work, creation, would be cared for.
Robert R. Ellis, writing in the Southwestern Journal of Theology, summarized three simple and magnificent truths from (Genesis 1:26-30):
- God created, and therefore he owns.
- We manage resources that God owns.
- We were created in God’s image, and therefore we are expected to manage resources the way God would manage them.
The fundamental idea of work is stewardship—the task of protecting and adding value to all the assets God has put under our care. Through our work, God asks us to care for his creation. Because we are created in his image, work is in fact one of the defining activities that separate us from other creatures. Bees, bears, and beavers work to survive, we as people work to manage God’s assets.
Work, then, is a big idea and no small matter. In the name of the King, we serve as steward of all we see. Therefore, let us understand that when it comes to our work, stewardship offers us a brand new perspective. We no longer work “under the sun,” but view life from above the sun—from God’s perspective.
From this vantage point, we now come to know that God calls each one of us to our jobs, in order that we may now do His work. That is, we are to take care of His creation. We must manage His resources as He would. We possess His power of attorney for management decision making. When someone requests references, we can drop the name of the Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos. When money is an issue, we can sharpen our pencils in the light of eternity.
More than correct theology, stewardship is a powerful philosophy that permeates all of life and work. “Stewardship is not a subcategory of the Christian life.” “Stewardship is the Christian life.” Stewardship is first an internal reality, affecting the way a person thinks, sees, and feels. Stewardship anchors motivation. Once inside our heart and mind, stewardship eventually and inevitably works its way out.
Now in conclusion, it is clearly understood that in our day-to-day living, stewardship knows no limits. There is no blank in which we check off “DONE.” Therefore, we leave you with this final thought, “THE FUNDAMENTAL IDEAL OF WORK IS STEWARDSHIP!”