Stewardship. What does it mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it means “the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something”. Lets see it in full;
I see so much waste in this world, but what is really bad is that it is the people, the individuals that control it. When we teach our children that things come freely and we don’t teach them that only eating half a banana is wasteful we set the stage for them to not care for bigger things, like bikes, cars, or even people. At the schools children throw away half their food. Huge trash cans full of food that has had maybe one bite taken are thrown away every day. How many times do you see a bike laying on its side in a driveway, no child present? How many people value what they have so little that they don’t bother to clean what they have or make repairs or simply put something away so it doesn’t get damaged? Do you eat leftovers? Or do you throw them in the trash can because you don’t like the taste of re-heated food? Do you constantly acquire more of things, animals, etc. yet not give what you already have the very best?
I see everything we have as being a gift. A gift that I am charged with stewardship of. Sometimes I am not a good steward. My van needs cleaning right now, very badly. To keep it from rusting it needs a good coat of wax and the paint should be kept clear of debris. It doesn’t matter that it is old and half the stuff on it doesn’t work; it runs and I don’t want it to deteriorate further. Today is nice and I need to clean it so that I have it in good condition for years to come. We only have so much time, money and energy in a day, week, month, year, and lifetime. Valuing what we already have and not acquiring more unless it is truly needed and we can care for it properly means that we can keep what we have better. It makes us good stewards of the things we have, and teaches our children how to value time, money, and things if we model it and train them.
How do we become good stewards when we haven’t been taught? That is simple; we make our mindset different. We look at everything as a treasure, from a simple piece of food to money in the bank. We don’t take for granted that these things will be available at our whim. We look around us in our homes and see what we have and what we are neglecting. Then we set about keeping only that which we can maintain. We find a way to use what we have rather than throw it out, and instead of collecting so much we can’t store it we select for the best and what is most useful, and then we care for it.
How do we teach our children to be good stewards? We teach them about budgeting. We teach them to save and not to always want something new. We avoid giving them much for free so that they value each thing they have. That little plastic toy that one child leaves on the floor because he didn’t have to work for it means a great deal if the child had to cut the grass, do dishes for a month, or rake the yard to earn the money to buy it. The child that worked hard will put the toy safely on a shelf so it doesn’t get broken. He will be a good steward of the toy. And… if the toy is a poor purchase and breaks even with careful handling that same child will become wiser the next time he makes a purchase and save for something of better quality before spending his hard-earned money. When a child has to clean an animal pen, or work in the garden pulling weeds so that he has food to eat, he learns that each thing he eats is valuable. Even if food is just money in your home, having a child earn the money for special food like candy will give them a different perspective. Recently my 8 year old was at the table enjoying a big bowl of bean soup, a regular meal in our home as it is very nutritious and cost effective. He commented on how thankful he was for that bowl of beans and how good it was to have a hot meal that filled his belly. He thanked his father for working so hard so we could buy the beans, and he thanked me for taking the time to cook them amid all the other work I had to do that day on the farm. It made my heart glad that he is beginning to realize the value in everything we have, and to see him begin to treasure even a bowl-full of beans. I challenge you to look around you today and evaluate whether you are a good steward of what you have.