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Words of Abundance

Your Host, Randy Petrick
  • Writer's pictureRandy Petrick

LET THE RIVERS RUN!

Updated: Mar 28

Stewarding our talents and abilities in ways that impact eternity.


Close-up photo of a right-handed person writing with pen in a spiral notebook while reading a book open to the left.

Hindsight Proved I Was Pathetic


Have you ever studied the topic of stewardship? I really hadn’t done so until recently. Pathetically, in hindsight, I wasn’t sure I really needed to! (Wow.) After all, I already understood that stewardship had to do with things like money management, investing well, reducing debt, and giving. Likely, you are far ahead of my limited view and realize that stewardship has a much broader meaning and should include topics such as environmental protection, property upkeep, social responsibility, energy conservation, and more. Once I started studying stewardship, those were things I finally understood.


In addition, my study broadened my thoughts about the recipients of Christian stewardship. In the past, when I thought about who to help, widows and orphans generally came to my mind. I knew the Bible was clear on those two groups. Now, I have a broader mental list that also includes groups such as people who live with a disability, people with very limited resources, and people who have been abused or neglected. I’ve also realized that stewardship extends far beyond just money. It can even encompass topics like clutter reduction, frugality, and living a life of greater simplicity.


A young woman with long brown hair singing into a microphone in front of a small audience.

A more holistic view also recognizes that in some cases, money isn’t even part of the equation at all! Perhaps a simple sharing of the gospel may be our proper stewardship. Truly, God has placed a great deal more under our care than my prior narrow view encompassed. I learned four things that caused me to stop and re-evaluate my stewardship. Maybe they will cause you to reflect as well.


Acknowledging The Owner

First, I was reminded that the Bible doesn’t mess around when it comes to addressing the true owner of all we have been called to steward. The very first chapter in the Bible (Genesis 1) lays it out quite clearly that God is the creator and owner, and has dominion over all things seen and unseen, beginning with this statement in verse 1:

In the beginning God (Elohim) created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 Amplified Version (AMP)


I’d say that’s all-encompassing. Genesis chapter one also addresses our roles as stewards:

Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.” –Genesis 1:26 (AMP)

A woman with a ponytail dressed in a white t-shirt and wearing a black and white striped apron working on a wreath hanging on the wall of a nursery.

While we have developed scientifically and technologically to a place where we are able to produce artificial light in greenhouses, draw nourishing water from deep in the earth, and isolate nutrients that can be added as fertilizer to enhance plant growth, we will never be masters of the design or forces that cause seeds to grow and become fruitful to begin with. We’re tasked with stewardship, but true ownership will never be ours.


Let the Rivers Run (Our Life-Enhancing Role)

Second, my study caused me to intellectually revisit the wide freedoms God has given us. As delineated above, humans have broadly been given authorization to oversee the care for God’s creation. That’s basic, right? And I will ashamedly admit that that’s about as far as my thought process went until the day someone asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks: “If we are truly stewards of God’s creation, how do you think we are doing in that role?” (It didn’t take much thought before I hung my head. My body language was my answer.)

Bible Studies professor Eugene F. Roop makes the interesting and true observation that we are all genuinely free in God’s created world: “We have the power to drain the farm soil of all its nutrients, to enslave certain people by economic oppression or military might, to care for only our own physical needs or emotional desires. We can even preach the gospel as benefitting and blessing us and condemning those not like us.” [Dang. There is some uncomfortable truth in those sentences.]


Thankfully, Roop ended his observations in a far more optimistic place – a place I hope we can collectively approach: “We can rejoice that stewards are finding new ways to nurture the soil back to life. Many stewards are reclaiming their life-enhancing role… [They] are listening to nature’s voice and deciding to let the rivers run.” Amen to that.


Thoughtful Allocation

Third, I’ve realized that as we broaden our perspectives on stewardship to include issues dealing with all of creation, all of humanity, and all the things God has provided, our roles as stewards become significantly more challenging. As difficult as it is to earn money to start with, it is even more difficult to learn to steward our resources wisely.


A man with curly hair and a beard sitting in shadow with his head perched atop one hand looking deep in contemplation.

As social philosopher Michael Novak says, “To shovel it out the door is easy; to produce the desired effects and to choose the right hands to put it in are two far more difficult tasks…. [A] balanced and thoughtful allocation of whatever resources are available is at least as significant as the amount in the pot.”


Impacting Eternity

My prayer is that I (we) can learn to think and act from an ever-broader sense of mission and purpose. Wouldn’t it be great to see Christians all over the world reclaiming the life-enhancing roles God has always intended for His stewards?


Ruminating on that question led me to my fourth activity-changing conclusion: Our roles as stewards extend beyond just stewardship of the earth. Our most important roles are to steward our time, money, and talents to sow seeds “for the harvest that is to come.” We can (and should) steward our talents and abilities to impact eternity! May God help us do exactly that.

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