I’m a big fan of the Lord of the Rings series. In one of the movies we encounter a character called the steward of Gondor. Because the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor isn’t around, a man is chosen to be the steward of this kingdom. His role is that of king and ruler, but as steward he is to be always aware that he is not the true king nor the ultimate ruler of the kingdom.
Well, things don’t work out so well for the steward of Gondor. See, at some point along the way he forgot he was a steward and he set himself up as king. He gripped the kingdom tightly as if it was his own. Greed, materialism, and power corrupted him until he’s eventually driven mad and meets his death still grasping for power.
Tolkein’s keen insight into the human heart speaks powerfully to us this month as we look at the spiritual discipline of stewardship. Stewardship is a discipline in the sense that it takes consistent effort, practice, and mindfulness to choose to live as a steward rather than set ourselves up as king.
God has given us much: shelter, opportunity, education, family, loved ones, time, money, possessions, spiritual gifts, talents, natural resources, the beauty of this planet. He has invited us to be stewards or caretakers, but never kings.
To live as a steward means to know that we are not in charge . . . Someone else is.
And this kingdom isn’t ours . . . it’s his.
And we’re to use and care for these gifts the way he‘d want us to. The way he would do it himself — and we can see a glimpse of this way in Jesus’ life during his time on earth. Our choices about money, about the environment, about our time or talents, and about our relationships ought all to reflect his Kingdom values — not our own psuedo-kingly desires.
This is partly what we mean when we pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth [and in our lives and choices] as it is in heaven.”
So before we get into practical matters of stewardship, we ought begin at square one.
Lord, I am not king of my life . . . you are.
Lord, you haven’t called me to rule — to make my “own” decisions, to use for my “own” purposes, to fulfill my “own” desires and pleasures.
I recognize I do not really own anything. All I have is yours.
Give me courage to ask myself hard questions this month.
How would you have me use my talents and abilities? How do you want me to spend my time?
How can I be a better caretaker of my financial resources? And how can my financial choices better reflect your kingdom values rather than the American dream?
How can I enjoy this planet, use it’s myriad of resources, and yet treasure it as your gift? How can I make choices that care for this gift in gratitude rather than in an attitude of disregard or entitlement?
Help me to be a steward, Lord.
I may need your assistance in inching my way off this throne. Will you help me?