As we launch into September’s discussion of Stewardship, I want to share “part 2″ from my interview with Amanda Siebold, a ministry leader with 24-7 Prayer and Just 24-7. (You can learn more about Amanda by reading my last post.)
Stewardship has been a profound spiritual theme in my own life over the past few years as I’ve begun to think more deeply, pray more, and feel convicted about God’s call for us to be caretakers of what he has given: our money and possessions; our talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts; the resources of this amazing planet we live on; and also, I believe, as caretakers of our fellow man. We’ll get into this more over the next few weeks, but for now the conclusion of my interview with Amanda. Keep on reading . . .
August’s topic Simplicity leads right into September’s topic of Stewardship. The way we relate to our “stuff” in simplicity is intricately related to stewardship, particularly in the way we can relate to those in need. When we have too much, we contribute to global injustices (perhaps even without realizing it); when we choose to live with less, we can more freely use our resources to address issues like poverty and injustice. OK, enough of my thoughts! What are your thoughts on this? How can a person’s choices about her everyday life relate to biblical justice and stewardship of our fellow man?
I always try to remember, whenever I purchase something that someONE rather than someTHING created it. We are so disconnected in our society from how our “stuff” is made. We think it just appears on shelves by little magic “stuff fairies” for our pleasure and consumption. The reality is that people operate the machines run by the corporate machine, for whom the bottom line is the supreme god. We get excited when we find massive amounts of really cheap stuff. Where do we think all of this stuff came from? And do we consider why it is so cheap? Labor practices are a tricky and complex issue and it can get very overwhelming when we begin to discover just how tainted our supply of goods from electronics to clothes to bananas has become. However, the Bible does have some very specific things to say about the reality of mistreating laborers and the importance of fair labor practices. James, in the beginning of chapter 5 gives a warning to the rich that hits me like a sucker punch to the gut every time I read it:
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire.You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
It’s important to realize that those laborers, the ones whose cries have reach the ears of the Lord of Hosts, are the same ones who grew our coffee beans, sewed the shirts hanging in our closets, and mined the diamonds in our wedding bands. There is a lot we can do to begin to use our wealth as a weapon against those who exploit laborers by spending it on products that are Fair Trade Certified and making it known to companies that we will consistently spend our money on products that are fair trade. This is a movement that is rapidly gaining momentum, which has resulted in the availability of more and more fair trade products and is a simple way in which we can begin to stand against unfair labor practices.
Big global problems (poverty, disease, sex trafficking, etc.) can seem overwhelming. But what are some practical ways my readers can take action today to address some of these issues?
I know this sounds like a cop-out to many people, but I always encourage folks to start in a place of prayer, with others if possible. The Father is far more committed to establishing justice for the mistreated and abused than you or I could ever be. I have found that He is always ready to share this passion with us when we ask (and sometimes when we don’t!). As you listen to the Father’s thoughts on these tough issues, be willing to offer him what you have. Anything from time to money to careers to talents can be used to fight injustice. We all have something to give, the important thing is to SAY YES to the Father’s invitation to engage, whatever that looks like. This practice also helps to protect us from the heavy burden that can overwhelm us when we begin to wade into these waters. Knowing that the Father is in charge and not me is very important to keep in the forefront of all our efforts. The other thing that anybody can do is to educate themselves. Many times, simply bearing witness to the suffering of others through taking the time to hear their stories will begin to change our lives and consequently the lives of others. The internet gives us unprecedented access to information. Take advantage of it!
Amanda, are there any resources on this topic that you’d like to tell us about?
I recently joined the board of a local non-profit organization called the Boston Faith and Justice Network. Through community organization, they have made Boston an official Fair Trade City and are committed to fighting poverty through practical choices. They have developed an open source Bible Study call Lazarus at the Gate, which I highly recommend. It is a small group discipleship experience designed to impact global poverty by challenging us to live generously and spend our wealth wisely and joyfully in light of the inequitable distribution of wealth. Other books I would recommend specifically for human trafficking would be:
Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – David Batstone
The Good News about Injustice – Gary Haugen
Half the Sky – Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today – Kevin Bales
The Trafficking in Persons Report – Published by the U.S. Department of State
Thank you, Amanda! Readers, over the next few weeks let’s talk more about the inspiring and challenging questions Stewardship asks of us: How much is enough? What will we do with what God has given to us? How can we be wise managers and grateful caretakers of these blessings and gifts? How can we use and enjoy these gifts in a way that advances God’s Kingdom and his values?