Stewardship is a theological belief that humans are responsible for the world, and should take care and look after it. Believers in stewardship are usually people who believe in one God who created the universe and all that is within it, also believing that they must take care of creation and look after it. Creation includes animals and the environment. Many religions and denominations have various degrees of support for environmental stewardship. It can have political implications, such as in Christian Democracy.
Many moderate and progressive Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Evangelical Protestants see some form of environmentalism as a consequence of stewardship. In Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, stewardship refers to the way time, talents, material possessions, or wealth are used or given for the service of God.
Some pagan or secular views include a Gaia philosophy which accepts the Earth as a holy being or goddess.
The Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, or "the New Year of the Trees," (Rosh Hashanah La-Ilanot") is also known as Jewish Arbor Day. Some want to expand it to a more global environmental focus.
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A biblical world view of stewardship can be consciously defined as: "Utilising and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation." The central essence of biblical world view stewardship is managing everything God brings into the believer's life in a manner that honors God and impacts eternity.
Stewardship begins and ends with the understanding of God's ownership of all:
Stewardship is further supported and sustained theologically on the understanding of God's holiness as found in such verse as: Genesis 1:2[1:2], Psalm 104, Psalm 113, 1 Chronicles 29:10-20, Colossians 1:16, and Revelation 1:8.
There is a strong link between stewardship and environmentalism. Environmental stewardship is typically thought of as entailing reducing human impacts into the natural world. Philosopher Neil Paul Cummins wrote that humans have a special stewardship role on the planet as those who, through their technology, can save life from otherwise certain elimination. This is a modern-day interpretation of Noah's Ark, the cornerstone of human stewardship being technological protection and regulation.
Christian Stewardship refers to the responsibility that Christians have in maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God has bestowed. God wishes human beings to be his collaborators in the work of creation, redemption and sanctification. Increasingly this has referred to environmental protectionism. This also includes traditional Christian Ministries that share the resources of treasure, time and talent.
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An example of stewardship is in Genesis 2:15[2:15]. "And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."
The concept is also seen in Leviticus 25:1-5 "The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest." The implication is that the land is not to be exhausted or abused for short-term gains.
Stewardship in Christianity follows from the belief that human beings are created by the same God who created the entire universe and everything in it. To look after the Earth, and thus God's dominion, is the responsibility of the Christian steward.
A useful quote explaining stewardship can be found in Psalm 24:1: "The Earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it".
A broader concept of stewardship is illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the "talents", which refer to an amount of money but by implication (and by common use of the word in English) as "abilities."
Matthew 25.14-30 –
Additionally, frequent references to the "tithe", or giving of a portion are found throughout the Bible as part of the Jewish law. The tithe represents the returning to God a significant, specific, and intentional portion of material gain; under the Jewish law, the first ten percent of one's food product (produce or animal livestock) was to be sacrificed at the temple for the sustenance of the Levites. Giving is not limited to the tithe or any specific amount, illustrated by Jesus’ comment that a woman who gave a very small amount had given more than those had given large amounts because "while they gave out of their abundance, she gave all she had to live on" (the lesson of the widow's mite, Mark 12.41-44; Luke 21.1-4).
The Dutch political party "CDA" (Christian Democratic Appeal) lists stewardship as one of its four key ideals. This refers not only to taking care of the environment, but also a principled stand towards human as well as natural resources. A commitment to clear principles, rather than pragmatism, is another facet of stewardship.
Many Christians practice the spiritual discipline of intentional financial stewardship, giving to churches or other ministries. Fewer, though still a significant number, commit time in service to the needy or in other areas, often utilizing and donating specialized skills and abilities.
Christian Stewardship Ministries have been growing in popularity around the United States, seeing a rapid growth in the 2000s and 2010s. Inspired by leaders like Larry Burkett, Howard Dayton, and Ron Blue the growth of these ministries has been championed by national leaders and pastors in the stewardship (theology) arena like radio host Dave Ramsey, Pastor Dave Briggs (Central Arizona Church), Pastor Chris Goulard (Saddleback Church), Pastor David Thompson (Gateway Church), Pastor Andy Stanley (North Point Church), and Pastor Rick Warren (Saddleback Church)3.
Due to the popularity of the movement, organizations have grown to support Stewardship Theology understanding around the country: Christian Stewardship Network, Stewardship Pastors Organization, and Stewardship Central.