Good Managers

Today I thought I would talk again about one of the words that is used in church circles but is often misunderstood. The focus word for today is stewardship. When most people hear this word they think about a campaign each congregation launches in late fall to get financial pledges from their members for the coming year. Based on those pledges then the leadership creates a budget. The problem with this understanding is that it is far too limited.

The word stewardship comes from the word steward. A steward is a manager of property and/or finances on behalf of another person. So stewardship is the act of managing. Based on this definition, one can easily see why the word conjures in the minds of many church members the image of a financial campaign. Yet this falls completely short of the Scriptural understanding of stewardship.

The concept of stewardship is first introduced in Scripture in the first chapter of Genesis. Here, as part of the creation story, God places all creation under the care and authority of humanity.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

Genesis 1:26-30 NIV

Here God is placing humans as managers over all which God just created. So stewardship includes the managing of creation.

Another aspect of creation is found in 1 Peter. Here the writer reminds us that we are to use whatever gifts (skills and abilities) we have been given to serve one another.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 4:10-11b

Not only are we reminded that we are to be managers of our gifts but also of the grace which we have received from God.

As you can see, stewardship involves much more than the annual fundraising for the church. Stewardship is an expectation and responsibility placed upon us by God. We are to be managers of everything which God has created and which God has given to us.

Hopefully the next time you hear the word stewardship, you will not only include your managing of money in a way that benefits God’s church, but also consider how you are managing the other aspects of life.

Going To Hell

One of the most important realizations which I came to after spending some years studying the Bible is that the Bible is written with a lot of imagery. This is understandable for various reasons. First, the accounts which we find in the Bible today came to us from an oral tradition. Second, the telling of these experiences and stories happened when there was no such thing as a printing press, motion pictures, televisions, or computers. Third, as humans, we try to relate events, experiences, and complex thoughts to something which helps us to make sense of whatever we are discussing. Together, these lend themselves to the use of imagery. The speakers and eventually, the authors of the Bible relied heavily on imagery. This is an important fact when people of the 21st century attempt to interpret Scripture. (For more thoughts about interpreting Scripture, see my post Word by Word.) It is also important when dealing with this post’s subject matter.

Last week I wrote a post regarding my understanding of heaven. (See Is This Heaven.) I thought that it made sense to follow up that post with one on my understanding of hell. Much of what I communicated in last week’s post applies to hell as well. I do not believe hell is a physical location. Hell is not the place of eternal punishment. There is no being in a red suit with a forked tail holding a trident or pitchfork. There are no boiling pots of hot lava with stone walkways running through them. There are no endless torments designed specifically for the person who is supposed to be sent to hell. All these are images which have been created over time based on someone’s interpretation of Scripture (often the book of Revelation) or through horror stories passed down through generations.

My understanding of hell and any Scripture which may lend itself to the concept of hell is that this is truly a human construct. The details of hell and evil lie within the human spiritual and psychological components. Let me try to unpack that a little for you. For me, hell is living without God. The only way that this reality could ever be (if it truly could ever be) is because a person has totally rejected the existence of a supreme spiritual being. God is the English name given to the supreme spiritual being which Christians, Jews, and Muslims acknowledge but is not the sole name humans give to this being. Therefore, I am not saying that using a different name for the supreme spiritual being other than God is the qualifier here but instead that a person rejects that there even is such a being.

It is also important to note here that I do not believe that God (which is the name I will use throughout this post since I am a Christian) EVER rejects ANY human. Why this is important is because it means the action is taken by a human and not God. This also means that God never leaves the person but that the person lives as if God does not exist. For me, living as if God never exists would be hell.

I think it is also important to deal with the misconception that God created a location labeled hell as a place for eternal punishment. Again, imagery used in the Bible has led to this interpretation. But when you truly study the passages containing such imagery (example: Matthew 13), you see that the issue being addressed is a person or persons who have chosen to reject God. The imagery is to help people understand what the life experience would be like if a person chooses to deny God’s existence and design for life.

In summary, my understanding of hell is that it is not a place but more a description of a person’s possible spiritual and psychological state. A state which we have been fully released from by the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection if we will accept the new status which God has given freely to each of us.

Glory

In the United States, and other countries, we tend to place famous people on pedestals. Star athletes, actors, actresses, social activists, and even some religious folk gain our admiration and words of praise. We try to copy their hair styles, dress like them, eat like them, and flock to see them whenever possible. They receive accolades from political leaders and industry giants. All this is true until it comes time to bring them off of their pedestal, either by their own doing or because someone has decided their time is up. Then with unbounded ruthlessness, we tear them down in any way possible, including cruel and unforgiving ways. So much for receiving glory.

Glory — an interesting word which conjures up a variety of responses.

According to dictionary.com, the definitions for this word include:

  • very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown
  • something that is a source of honor, fame, or admiration; a distinguished ornament or an object of pride
  • adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving

These definitions all seem to fit our treatment of famous individuals as I described above. The last of which brings me to the focus of today’s post since glory is a word that is used within the church circles.

Recently this word came up in a discussion with my husband regarding a passage from John 13:31-35. In this passage Jesus speaks about glory. The issue which came up in our discussion centered around the definition of glory. I think most people would assume that this word is to be understood in the church using one of the definitions found above. The problem which arises when we use one of these definitions is that it leads the hearer to the conclusion that we are putting God on pedestal. We are then led to the conclusion that either God is arrogant, as the famous people seem to be when placed on a pedestal, or that God is going to one day be torn down from the pedestal. Both of these conclusions would be absolutely wrong.

Instead, let us look at the theological definition of the word glory as first seen in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Hebrew word often translated as “glory” is “kavod” which means glory, respect, honor, or majesty. The Greek word found in the Christian New Testament is “doxa” which means judgment, opinion, good reputation, or honor. As I understand the word glory in reference to God, I understand it to mean that we are giving respect and honor to God. This to me is much different from placing God on a pedestal.

How do we then show glory to God?

What I am asking here is, how do we show respect and honor to God?

First, I need to ask myself why I should give respect and honor to God. Yes, in Scripture we are admonished to give glory to God but there are many commands and guidance in Scripture which I do not follow closely. (as in, “Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.'” [Leviticus 24:13-16].) The answer for me is I give respect and honor to God because of the great love which God has given to me daily and in the work of Jesus, the Christ.

Now that I have a reason for giving God respect and honor, how do I go about it. The obvious answer is by attending a worship service with fellow believers where I thank and praise God. Unfortunately, this is often where people stop. Somehow we have become content with attending a worship service, giving an hour of our time, and calling that sufficient in respecting and honoring God. I believe that I fall short if this is my only show of respect and honor.

Here is my possible list for respecting and honoring God:

  • Respecting and honoring all who God has created
  • Taking care of the land and animals which God has entrusted to my care
  • Showing love through not just words but also action to those whom God has placed in my life
  • Setting aside time throughout my day to reflect upon God
  • Striving to understand Jesus’ teachings as given to us through the recording of his words and actions in Scripture
  • Making the attempt to apply the teachings of Jesus in my own actions, words, and decisions
  • Acknowledging that everything which I have and who I am are gifts from God

These are ways in which I strive to honor and respect God, to give God glory. How are you showing glory to God? What additional ways do you show God respect and glory?

I look forward to hearing from you.