(Well, it didn’t take long for me to drift away from trying to post on Saturdays.) Anyway, I recently had cause to be researching the topic of “stewardship”. I think most people are familiar with the concept of stewardship, but maybe not. So to begin with, here is an excerpt from the Merriam-Webster Online definition:
“2 : the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially : the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”
That pretty much sums it up.
The first I can remember hearing anything about stewardship was when I was young and attending a Methodist church in the small Midwest town I grew up in. Stewardship was an important topic in that church. Probably the most well known Bible story relating to stewardship is the story of Joseph in Egypt. How Joseph, acting as a good servant, espousing good stewardship, was a blessing to the Egyptian people. You can read more about the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis beginning at chapter 37. The topic of stewardship was one that came up every now and then in the topics being presented.
That association of stewardship and religion led me to look to see what some other religions had to say on the topic. There is a lot that is written and discussed online around this topic related to various religions. However, there did clearly appear to be a consensus to be found among many of the world’s religions. Most of the information I have listed below are excerpts taken from the website “Religion Answers” although I often found similar quotes within other sources:
Within the Islamic faith we find: “The three most important principles of the Prophet’s philosophy of nature are based on the Quranic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa (stewardship) and amana (trust).”
The Hindu teaching has this to say: “Stewardship is Right Conduct, what the Hindu calls dharma. Stewardship extends to water, to land, to animals, to food, to resources. Nature is Prakriti, Mother Earth is one of the Gods. Earth must be treated with respect.”
Buddhism: “Stewardship is management of the Earth and its resources in accord with the dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha. This includes respect for all forms of life. Stewardship scopes to include environmental ethics, obligation to future generations, risk, and development of technology.”
Sikhism: “The holy scriptures in Sikhism say God is the creator of all that exists., Man has a duty to care for the creation, The world reflects what is inside man – pollution, global warming, ecology disasters – all these reflect what is inside every man, woman and child.”
In the Old Testament: (This does not come from “Religion Answers.) I have to say this is one area of discussion that got a little blurry. It seems to be accepted that God gave man dominion over the Earth. The blurriness seems to be in how that may be interpreted from one place to another. Does “dominion” mean do what you will? That the Earth and it’s resources are here for our plunder? Or does it mean that the Earth belongs to humankind for our caretaking? For our stewardship in keeping with love for God and for one another? Big difference. I think (and hope) most conscientious, spiritually minded persons from both Judaism and Christianity regard it in the latter context.
From the New Testament: Titus 1:7 ESV : “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,”
These are just a few examples. From what I’ve found Taoism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Native American teachings, African native spiritual practices and Paganism all hold the value of respectfully and responsibly, if not lovingly, caring for the Earth and it’s resources. I have not researched every religion, however, from the pattern which clearly shows within the ones I’ve listed, good stewardship, especially of the Earth and it’s resources, has been a shared and cherished value within the religious traditions of most, if not all, people from all around the world for a long, long time.
Imagine, human beings from most, if not all, cultures and locations on the Earth, who have sought wisdom within our spiritual reality, have for centuries, if not millenia, held values consistent with one another about how we should revere and care for, how we should engage in good stewardship of, the Earth and it’s resources. Talk about common ground! What has happened to divert so much of humanity from this very common understanding of our role as stewards upon the Earth?
If humankind, around the world, were to in deed practice conscientious, responsible, loving stewardship of the Earth and it’s resources, keeping in mind that humankind itself may be thought of as another resource upon the Earth, imagine how wonderful this planet and the cultures we build upon it might be?