Acton Institute Powerblog

Why We Get Stewardship Wrong

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The_Church_is_a_PartyChristians frequently talk about “stewardship,” but what do we mean when we use that term? And more importantly, what should we mean by it?

At The Gospel Coalition, Stephen J. Grabill, director of programs and international for the Acton Institute, discusses what it means to have a holistic understanding of stewardship and what it means to “make the kingdom of God visible and tangible to the world”:

Although Christians across denominational lines often use stewardship language to describe our calling to live out God’s mission in the world, what we mean theologically by “stewardship” varies greatly across religious traditions. Some think stewardship is tithing; others think it means volunteering or living a simple lifestyle. Still others identify stewardship with environmental conservation, social action of some kind or another, charitable giving, or making disciples through evangelism.

Each of these good and necessary activities points to an essential facet of stewardship, but each—on its own—falls shy of capturing the inspiring vision of biblical stewardship as a form of whole-life discipleship that embraces every legitimate vocation and calling to fulfill God’s mission in the world. In this sense, holistic stewardship, transformational generosity, workplace ministry, business as mission, and the theology of work movement all share a common point of origin in the biblical view of mission as whole-life discipleship. In other words, the essence of stewardship is about finding your place—that is, all the dimensions of your many callings—in God’s economy of all things (oikonomia).

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Mom

    I am curious at to why no comments three days after the article was posted. Is it because we are all convicted of how short our lives fall of the goal of being Jesus to all we come in contact with in every aspect of our lives? Or is it because we may not be interested in such a huge demand of us? Do we not have time to care since we are so busy?
    I generally get much food for thought from both the articles and responses, so I hereby offer my humble contribution: like most challenges, this one is best taken a bite at a time. After prayer, choose one area of your life where you could make a difference by living your faith, and then do it. Maybe it is silently saying Grace before meals in a restaurant or cafeteria. Maybe it is responding in love to a family member or coworker when you feel more agitated than loving. Be consistent in prayer and practice, and gradually add other small acts of love. I am sure this works because it is actively seeking to practice virtue in your life. When you grow in one virtue, the others are exercised as well. I hope this is food for somebody’s thoughts.

  • Kenny Kozol

    Dr. Grabill,
    My wife and I have recently purchased and viewed “For the Life of the World” after seeing it promoted in World Magazine. This series has provided me with a deeper understanding of God’s plan and our part in it, here, in this world. I think your presentation and interaction with Evan Koons is very well done. The films are short enough to hold my attention, and deliver a wealth of knowledge. The cinematography is wonderfully personal and beautiful. I am now reading Hans Urs von Balthasar and learning. I resolve to try and be a good steward in God’s way in all aspects and circles of life. Thank you.