We'll take on the questions of what does stewardship mean and why does it matter in this page, as we continue in our series involved with efforts to "Teach Our Children Well."
This is another one of those topics that makes some people uncomfortable. It involves stepping out of comfort zones and committing to something that may not be easy. And there are always opinions of a more cynical nature that see any stewardship theory as an infringement on personal property and assets.
This is the best general stewardship definition I've found. "An ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources." I agree with this stewardship definition because it includes the word "ethic."
We posted a page about why character counts. We mentioned that honesty is the most important trait in determining true character. Honesty is also what forms genuine moral ethics that should guide our lives.
"The responsible planning and management of resources." What does stewardship mean for our children in terms of managing resources. I think it involves teaching our children the responsibility and importance of giving. Call it tithing if you wish or just being willing to give back in time, talent and treasure.
It means much more than just money, but does include money. I've found in life that the proverb, "Give and it shall be given to you" is accurate. I know of many people, (in fact I was one of them) who justify their inaction by telling people and themselves that they will give when they are out of debt.
Getting out of debt is a great goal. Crushing debt is a modern form of slavery. Debt causes us to become slaves to lenders and jobs. But those who "wait till they get out of debt" to give back, usually never reach that point. I learned this lesson the hard way. In fact I needed more proof than most.
But the truth is that the more you give, the more you will receive. You can look at that statement from a religious standpoint or a scientific one. Whichever works for you, because it is true from both views.
Giving of time to those who need your smile or your kind words will bring you more quality time. Giving of your expertise in a particular area to help a charity will provide an increase in expertise to you in other areas. Giving of your money to help those less fortunate will lead you to more success and therefore more money.
What does stewardship mean for parents? It means instilling the values of charity and responsibility in our children and inspiring them to pass those character traits on again.
That stewardship definition also applies to our country. We are part of the solution to the challenges facing our nation. Taking care of the future by wisely using the resources today is our duty. Pressing elected officials to act as public servants rather than personal profiteers of the public treasury is our duty and responsibility. Our children must learn that firing ineffective politicians is another example of "what does stewardship mean?"
Teach your children to study the history of free market capitalism. They will learn about how individual business pioneers took personal and financial risks without any mention or expectation of taxpayer bailouts, to build companies. Those companies produced things. They built actual products. Those companies hired people. Those jobs paid for lifestyles and families.
And many of those daring business leaders gave back so much to the communities in which they themselves lived and worked. Here in Michigan we are so fortunate to see the benefits of the generosity of such economic leaders. Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel are directly responsible for many of the fabulous venues in West Michigan, including museums and hospitals. Fred Meijer has provided a means for schools to raise funds for many years.
If you look into the history of many libraries in smaller towns in America, you'll eventually find the name of Andrew Carnegie. He gave away millions of dollars for the creation of these free book sources.
These leaders have passed down the importance of giving back to their kids. What does stewardship mean? Look at the example of these families. You'll see it in action.
Or just see how many people come together to help a local family in times of trouble. It means giving back to do your part to leave the country in better shape than you found it. Why does it matter? I think you already know that answer.
That Native American proverb just above this paragraph has always kind of stuck with me. I think about our time on this planet. Do we look at that time as our turn to take from the planet what we want? Or do we recognize that our period of life is merely one of many that came before and will surely follow us.
When we make decisions about innovations to improve the quality of our lives, are we taking a long view into ramifications for that next group who will also seek an opportunity on this planet? Or is immediate gratification more important? What does stewardship mean to you?
As we create forms of bio-fuels, is it helping the entire world or are we making things easier for ourselves, while at the same time ruining the lifestyle of farmers in less-advantaged regions? If the roles were reversed, would we feel the same way?
Are we allowing multi-national corporations to permanently damage parts of the planet in search of quicker and bigger profits? Do we turn a blind eye because it is happening in areas of the world that do not have the resources or the voice to fight back? Do we ignore injustice because it isn't at our own doorstep?
This is the planet we're borrowing from our children. What kind of shape are we leaving it in when it is their turn? What if the roles were reversed?
Give and you shall receive. What does stewardship mean? It means lifting up other people. It means sharing the gifts you've been given to create a better world. For some more insight into this topic, check out "Treasure" by Edwin Louis Cole. The subtitle is "Uncovering Patterns & Principles That Create Prosperity." It is a short book, but filled with insightful writing.
Teach your children to accept this responsibility and respond to this challenge. It will come back to them many times over.