Factories, Gardens, Giving, Guns: A COVID-19 economy and Stewardship.
Jobs have been lost, hours have been cut, and businesses have closed. So far, the economic impact of COVID-19 is enormous. The scale and duration of the slowdown remain to be seen. It hangs not only on the course of the virus, but on the course our various governments take to fight the virus.
Like any economic difficulty, a COVID-19 economy highlights the need to steward our resources, whether those resources be meager or vast. Hard times can actually clarify our understanding of basic Christian economics. Let’s consider four themes:
- Prepare to Share
- As Public Health Allow, Maintain Fundamental Productivity and Invest for Good
- Lend Righteously
- The One who Takes the Sword Will Perish by the Sword
1. Prepare to Share
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,” we are instructed; “for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16). Sharing resources with others should be the most obvious stewardship response. It is both a constant biblical theme and an obvious response to seeing people forced to leave their jobs and stay home.
Social distancing requires unemployment to be effective. After all, the goal is to minimize physical proximity and not all jobs can be done remotely. Governments attempt the tricky task of dividing work into essential and non-essential categories so they can keep some people home while others maintain food production and other essentials. Thus some people work feverishly while others can’t work their job.
This is not an essay about how to handle profits that may be gained through business. Of course, if you do own a business that generates large profits, that does result in responsibilities to use that money well, but that is not the subject under discussion. Rather, the question is what does it mean to be a steward of business giftings and abilities, and of business roles and opportunities?
In my January essay on this blog, I examined the New Testament concept of being a steward (household manager, servant-manager) in more detail. This month’s post has two parts. In this first part, I will recap some of that biblical discussion, focusing on business applications, and encouraging business people to recognize themselves as servant-managers of both a set of giftings and abilities and of certain roles and opportunities. In part two I will reflect a bit more specifically on stewardship in relation to job creation and business investment, as well as on the general mindset of the business steward.
The Greek term oikonomos refers most directly to a slave who played a managerial role within his master’s household. The New Testament makes frequent reference to the oikonomos (steward, household-manager, servant-manager) to show Christians how to live. The parable of the faithful and wise manager in Luke 12:42-45 shows the structure of stewardship. As a steward one has:
- Someone they are responsible to (human master, God)
- Something they are a steward of (wealth, abilities, leadership positions, etc.)
- Those they are responsible for (fellow servants, fellow believers, etc.)
One strand of being a servant-manager is using the skill, abilities, and possessions God has given us to benefit others, as indicated in 1 Peter 4:10-11.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—
When my wife and I got married and moved into an apartment complex in Sacramento, CA, my neighbors began to give me an education. Several years after this education began, I was reading the Bible and read the story Jesus told in Matthew 25 about the king and the servants who were given talents. It struck me how much I am like these servants and how I also have decisions to make regarding my talents.
Growing up, I never worried about my father coming home from work. Now I work with boys whose parents never came back to pick them up from daycare.I took for granted that family gatherings are a fun time with my cousins until I talked with my neighbor and discovered that she won’t go to a family gathering for fear her uncle would try to harm her. I didn’t know I had a safety net around me until my neighbor was evicted because her child was taken away by Child Protective Services, and she no longer had child support to pay for her apartment. Right now, I have dozens of people I could call, and they would send me $1,000 with almost no questions asked, if I had a legitimate need.
I grew up enjoying acapella 4-part harmony singing. I come from a musically inclined family and singing came almost naturally for me. Now I go visit elderly friends with a group to sing and they can’t believe how we “sing like angels”. When my neighbor’s car wouldn’t start, I pulled jumper cables out of my trunk and helped them out. How did I learn that? I’m not really sure. I think I was born knowing how to do that. My neighbor asked me, “Why do you work so hard? You don’t have to. That’s what the government is for.” But I know a secret. Work not only provides income, it also changes how I feel emotionally, physically, and in some ways spiritually. But I only know that because I was taught to work hard.
In the following article Dualism will be understood as separating Wholeness into two distinct parts in order for practitioners to feel good about themselves while not being Whole. The two separate parts may or may not include truth as part of each whole. Religious Dualism is a widespread Christian problem inherited from the Gnostic heresy. The Apostle John directly deals with the Gnostic heresy of his day in his first and second epistles.
Religious Dualism provided the justifying framework for the Roman Catholic Holy Wars, including the Crusades. After butchering Muslims, the crusading butcherers could take the Mass, be forgiven for any and all sins, and return to their work of butchering more Muslims. The consecrated wafer was, to them, Christ within, grace provided by the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The pattern had been long established by this authority: commit sin, deal magically with the sin, commit sin again, deal magically with the sin, repeat continually until death.
Martin Luther discerned the wrongheadedness of the process. He discovered that the Epistle of Romans teaches that salvation comes by grace alone, by faith alone, The just shall live by faith. There is no magic in the Mass; the Roman Catholic Church does not have all the authority that it claimed; the Pope is Antichrist. Faith in the finished work of Christ qualifies a soul to have his name recorded in the Books of Heaven. Salvation is by a forensic declaration of God. All past, present, and future sins are forgiven.
The early Anabaptists noted that Luther’s position, which became Reformation Theology, remained Dualistic. People still sinned regularly but the method of removing the sin was transferred from the Roman Catholic Church to God who kept declaring sinners to be righteous. Once again personal sin was no big deal because the sin counted for little as long as the soul was continually being declared righteous. Thus, the German morals on a broad social level declined with the passing of years. Martin Luther was distressed with the fact.
Fourteen-year-old Bob has the rather grandiose title, “Steward of the Woodpile”. While Dad is gone, Bob is in charge of the woodpile. Bob is thrilled. He promptly messages his friends and says, “Hey nobody’s home tonight, come over and we will have the biggest bonfire you ever saw.” The next morning the firewood has been consumed. The temperature is well below freezing. Bob’s mom and siblings are miserable, and Mom is left with some dangerous makeshift heating methods till Dad returns a week later.
A few miles away, sixteen-year-old Bill has a similar responsibility. Reckless consumption of firewood is not his style. Rather, he only lets Mom put one piece on the fire every three hours. The house stays quite cold, especially for the toddler, but the wood pile is staying full. When the neighbors ask to borrow or buy wood since their gas furnace is out of commission, Bill lends them wood only on the condition that they will return twice the amount within a month. As a result, when Bill’s dad returns, the wood pile is a little larger than it was when he left.
Which boy was a good steward? The correct answer is neither. Everyone can agree that Bob’s behavior epitomizes bad stewardship. But unfortunately, we sometimes think that good stewardship means acting like Bill. In the words of one of my friends, many see stewardship as “merely saving and frugality.” A deficient notion of stewardship is sometimes used to defend miserliness, the pursuit of personal wealth, and questionable practices of the financially shrewd. These misunderstandings exist because we have often missed the point that stewards are responsible to act for the benefit of others.
Hello everyone. We are excited to announce that Anabaptist Perspectives will be relaunching our blog emails starting in January 2020. We are grateful to God for His direction in the past and are praying for his direction for the future as well. We have been praying for some time that God would lead someone to Anabaptist Perspectives to fill this calling. We praise God for His perfect timing in leading a brother to us that loves managing this type of ministry.
My name is D Eshbach. Some time ago, I came across the Anabaptist Perspective’s website and YouTube channel. I was extremely inspired by what I read and watched. Later on then, I saw that they were looking for someone to help start the blog back up and to manage all the details. After some talk and prayer, I felt God leading me to accept the position. Growing up, I often desired that others would teach me how to study the Bible, how to have a deep relationship with God, and so on. Because of the longings that I had growing up, I was determined to do something with my life. Do something for God to impact others and to show others God's love for them.
Our little family of 3 lives in Richmond, Virginia. We recently moved here to spread the Light of Jesus to this dark city. Living in an apartment, we have close neighbors and love the opportunities that come up to witness for Jesus.
My desire for this blog is that God would receive all the glory. We as humans are nothing compared to God and His universe. Isaiah 40:15 says: Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
Currently, our goal is to send out a blog at the beginning of every month starting in January. Please pray for myself, the board, and the proofreaders as we together with God’s help use our talents to share God’s Truth with the world each month. We feel the weight on our shoulders to teach the whole truth so no-one would be led astray but be drawn closer to Jesus. Also, pray for the writers that they would be open to God’s voice as they they write what is on their hearts.
The recent passing of the Reproductive Health Act by the New York State Legislature has served as a chilling wake up call to many Christians. The passing of this Act removed a long-standing ban on abortion after twenty-four weeks, effectively making it possible for a full-term abortion of any child if sanctioned by a healthcare professional. New York joined eight other states that provide no legal protection for infants inside the womb. However, the public reaction and emotion surrounding this bill have seemed to be stronger than when previous states enacted similar laws. The political climate may be partly to blame for this response, but two other factors contributed to this as well. One, the Act was signed into law by a governor who is affiliated with the Catholic Church. Two, the passing of the bill was celebrated by lighting up famous sites in NYC with pink.
My heart is heavy. I have wept over this tragic decision here in my state. I ache deeply over the evils of abortion and the millions of human lives this horror has claimed. I hurt for the thousands of women who are merely seen and used as pawns for political power on all sides of the issue. I grieve for how little value we, as a nation, are putting on human lives. And, quite frankly, I am troubled by the responses of many conservative Christians to this issue. In writing this article, my desire is to confront some common misconceptions and counter-productive attitudes surrounding the abortion issue while casting a vision for a more redemptive response.
As Christians, we believe that humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, made in His own image. This is a dignity that we must value, defend, and promote for all humans, born or unborn. All humans are created for purpose, for relationship with Jesus, to be known and loved by God. We must be pro-life!
This article originally appeared on Bruderhof.com and in the Autumn 2018 issue of Plough Quarterly.
When I was thirteen years old, my dad died from AIDS as a result of a same-sex relationship outside of his marriage. So when as a follower of Jesus, I get called a bigot, it hurts me deeply. I loved my dad; most of my happiest childhood memories were shared with him. We danced to Carly Simon. We baked Black Forest Cherry Cake. We sat together in our rocking chairs on warm North Carolina nights, marveling at God’s universe. But most of all I loved him because, more than any other person in my life, he pointed me to Jesus. When I was nine, he gave me the Bible I still use today. He wanted me to know how important it was to follow Jesus, come what may. He suffered intensely from AIDS, but he told me that he suffered more from his betrayal of Christ. He knew he had sinned, and was deeply sorry. I witnessed his repentance and his childlike joy when he knew he was forgiven. It remains the single most important example for my own life.
Thank you to Daughters of Promise magazine for granting us permission to reprint this article from their Winter 2017 issue.
Since 1973, the year before I was born, the average living space per person in newly built United States homes has nearly doubled from 551 to 1,058 square feet.1 My adult experience distantly follows this same trend. As a single during college, I had personal space of maybe 375 square feet in the basement of my landlord’s home. Now (eighteen years, four dwellings, and four additional family members later) I am a first-time home owner of a house in Atlanta, Georgia, with 2,200 square feet plus an unfinished basement.“But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
Speaking of somewhere to lay your head, my bed size since moving to the U.S. in 2003 has also grown—from a single bed in the Bronx, to a full-sized sofa bed (newly-weds!), to several more full-sized beds, to, now, a luxurious queen-sized bed. “But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Rich Mullins sang it well:
There were places You visited frequently
Took off Your shoes and scratched Your feet
‘Cause You knew that the whole world belonged to the meek
But You did not have a home…
Birds have nests, foxes have dens
But the hope of the whole world rests
On the shoulders of a homeless man.2
On November 17th, 26-year-old John Allen Chau counted the cost and launched out to share the Gospel with one of the most isolated tribal people groups in the world—the Sentinelese people of North Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean. Almost nothing is known about these ancient people who have had little to no contact with the outside world. Sadly, John Chau was killed while attempting to share the Gospel with the Sentinelese as they showered arrows towards him upon his approach to the island. Some say he was an adventure blogger who took a foolish risk for the sake of a thrill, some say he was crazy, others say he should have left the Sentinelese alone; but John Chau, now a martyr for the Lord, knew with all his heart what the world will never understand—that no risk is too great for the Gospel, and the saving power of Jesus is for everyone. May Tertullian’s statement prove true both for the life and death of John Chau, as well as the furthering of the Gospel among the Sentinelese people: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
Why My Friend Died
I met John Allen Chau at the Canadian Summer Institute of Linguistics in 2017. My first impression of him was of a quiet determination and a ready warm smile that lit up his whole face. There was an air of confidence about him that pervaded the atmosphere around him. Was it his faith? Was it his years of mountaineering and extensive emergency medical training? Probably all of this factored in, he was just the kind of person who inspires your confidence and trust from first encounter.