Posts tagged with: stewardship

What is the purpose of money? Is it for our survival? For our status, significance, or success? Is it for the service of ourselves or for the service of others?

In a talk for the Oikonomia Network, theologian Darrell Bock sets out to answer the question, drawing from the numerous treatments of money in the book of Luke — from the rich fool and Lazarus’ wealthy neighbor to Zacchaeus and the widow’s mite.

“Money is to be surrendered into stewardship,” he says, “because that is the way God has designed not just the resources that he gives us; that’s the way he’s designed our very lives.”

Money is ultimately about a stewardship of managing the creation in which God has placed us. It’s for others, and it’s for Him…It’s a stewardship that serves and leads to flourishing, and we are all stewards, every one of us. It’s a surrender to Christ. It’s a surrender to others. And it’s a surrender to the divine design. It’s a commitment not to serve the self, and it’s a commitment not to use other people as currency…

Yes, money does make the world go around, but we drive that bus. And it’s not the money that’s the agent of change; we are the agents of change. So how do we make money that matters? We don’t make money the old fashioned way, by earning it for ourselves. We make money useful the divine way, by stewarding it so that others can flourish and be developed, and by generating value for those who are around us.

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U.S. Terracycle office, photo courtesy of BBC

U.S. Terracycle office, photo courtesy of BBC

Starting a business is a risky undertaking. You need money, a product or service people want and away to deliver that product or service that keeps some of that money in your pocket. For social entrepreneurs, the  stakes are even higher: their goal is to do something good while making money.

Tom Szaky of TerraCycle is quite clear: “I want to make a lot money doing good.” And he just may do it. TerraCycle has been based in the U.S. for 13 years, but Szaky and his family fled communist Hungary when he was very young. The ended up first in Holland, then Canada, then the U.S. One thing that struck young Szaky and his father was the amount of “good stuff” people threw out:

In Hungary back then, you needed a licence for a TV set,” he explains.

You couldn’t just go and buy one. Instead, after applying for a licence maybe a year later you’d get a black and white TV, and you’d get the one state channel.

Tom says: “Only a few years later we end up in Canada where every Friday my dad and I would drive round and see mountains of TVs thrown out of every apartment buildings. (more…)

gmo-labeling-balint-radu-jpgYesterday the the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, known as the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.” The bill prevents states from requiring mandatory labeling for any products containing genetically modified food. Currently, Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont all have such laws. Whether or not this might be a blow to states’ rights, it’s certainly a win for common sense. Fewer people are being fooled by the propaganda and downright bad science surrounding genetically modified food.

The House Committee on Agriculture released the following statement from Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX):

Advances in technology have allowed the U.S. to enjoy the safest, highest quality, most abundant, diverse and affordable supply of food and fiber mankind has ever known. With the world’s population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, biotechnology is an essential tool for our farmers to meet this demand in an environmentally sound, sustainable, and affordable way. Unfortunately, proposed Federal and State laws threaten this innovation by generating a patchwork of differing labeling requirements, which will result in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers and interfere with interstate commerce. H.R. 1599 establishes a voluntary nation-wide marketing program that gives consumers access to consistent, reliable information while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation.

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FLOW_EXILEIn the various discussions surrounding the Acton Institute’s film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, a common response has been to call into question the basic notion of Christians existing in a state of “exile.”

The general complaint is that it’s somehow hyperbolic, given the privileged position of the modern West in the scope of human history. From here, things typically descend into detailed historical debates about the realities of America vs. the Middle East vs. the Roman Empire vs. Babylonian rule, and so on.

But as Russell Moore now helpfully points out, such a critique assumes a false definition of “exile” that most simply misses the point.

Exile has nothing to do with some temporal decline from this earthly rule to that — in our case, from some nostalgic memory of a “Christian nation” to the present “post-Christian” dysphoria. “The political and cultural climate of America does not make us exiles,” Moore reminds us, and such a perspective “just continues the triumphalist rhetoric of the last generation.”

Indeed, Christians have never been “at home” in America: (more…)

lesmis4

Jean Valjean in “Ep. 4: The Economy of Order”

“Seeking justice isn’t a matter of designing the right programs or delivery systems… Seeking order means acting in accord with a true vision of our brothers and sisters.” –Evan Koons

American society and public discourse seem to be stuck in a state of feverish discord, rightly concerned with severe acts and systems of injustice, even as we continue to dig deeper cultural divides over everything from healthcare to sexual ethics, race relations to religious liberty, immigration to foreign policy.

As Evan Koons asks in Episode 4 of For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles: “How are we to operate with so much hurt, so much dysfunction in the world? What hope is there for justice?”

When we consider the Economy of Order, it can be intimidating to even think about enacting change. Government, policy, and the big bureaucratic food chain that supports it all don’t necessarily tend  toward inspiring optimism, patience, and trust. (more…)

leaders_edition_-_flow letters to exiles1The Acton Institute’s seven-part film series, For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles, was created for a wide-ranging Christian audience, whether Baptist or Catholic, Orthodox or Presbyterian. As Andy Crouch says in his review, “this series is marvelously catholic, in the small-c sense,” appealing across political and theological divides while still proclaiming a specific vision of creativity, beauty, and service in the Christian life.

But while the series is highly enjoyable for any viewer, it is particularly suited to more intimate explorations, whether in a college classroom or a church small group. Churches, colleges, discussion groups, and dinner parties have already been using it in this capacity. But now, in order to further empower such explorations, a special Leader’s Edition is now available.

Designed to equip leaders with tools and resources to navigate discussion and education around the themes of the series, the Leader’s Edition includes everything anyone would need to bring this resource to your community, whether to small-group discussions or even sermon bumpers or illustrations.

The Leader’s Edition includes the following:

  • DVD and Blu-ray — All 7 episodes of the film series are included in both formats.
  • Field Guide — This companion Field Guide jump-starts group and individual investigation and includes additional content to enhance the film experience.
  • Extras Disk — The extras disk includes many never-before-released digital resources including:
    • Digital Field Guide broken down into 7 episodes
    • One-page discussion guides for each episode
    • Digital files to help church promote a church-wide campaign or a screening event on social media or produce mailers, post cards, banners, flyers, bulletin inserts, PowerPoint slides, and radio spots.
    • Modular components — Each episode has 5-6 modular components (e.g. All Is Gift). We have lifted these out and put them on the extras disk to be used as teasers, event promoters, and/or sermon illustrations.

Watch the trailer below, and order your copy today(more…)

heart in handCompassion is a marvelous virtue. Feeling concern for others and acting sacrificially — especially on behalf of those that cannot return the favor — reveals mature character and contributes to human flourishing.

Compassion moves missionaries and monks to great efforts as they plant churches, pioneer institutions, and work for justice across cultures and geographies. Paul’s words are the motivation for his apostolic proclamation that, “…the love of Christ compels us…” and, “one died for all, therefore all died. And those who live should not live for themselves but for him who died and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5)

This agape love includes moral conviction and missional wisdom.

“Unsanctified mercy” (thank you, Jill Miller, for this term) arises when compassion becomes compromise and our fear of offending subverts biblical truth. The American church is increasingly guilty of doctrinal, moral, and spiritual compromise under the guise of compassion and misplaced historical guilt.

At the risk of offending tender sensibilities, it is time to confront our own hearts and our public ministries with gospel truth. Progressive Christians have served the kingdom well as they expose the excesses of consumerism, capitalism, and colonialism that often mark American and Western ecclesial efforts. Conservative Christians serve God’s reign as they remind the church that there are timeless beliefs and values not subject to one’s “evolution.” The sanctity of life, the definition and marriage, and the historical foundations of the gospel and Scripture are among these convictions. There is much room for civil family debate on a variety of issues and strategies.

The events of the past half-century and the last few months are cause for grave concern and I am unashamedly speaking truth to power as unsanctified mercy leads the church down pathways of compromise, irrelevance and ineffective witness. (more…)

laudato_siSamuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, writes in The American Spectator today about Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ encyclical which addresses environmental issues. Gregg says that part of the encyclical’s intent is to add to the global discussion regarding the environment and to the climate change debate. However, Gregg believes that the encyclical, rather than enlightening, is muddying the waters.

To be sure, there is much about today’s global economy that merits criticism. The encyclical rightly underscores the problem of bailing out banks at everyone else’s expense (189). Does anyone doubt that, if the world faces another series of major bank failures, governments will behave in exactly the same way, thereby reinforcing the moral hazard problem that’s at the root of so much of the financial sector’s on-going dysfunctionality? The encyclical also suggests, correctly, that despite the events of 2008, there has been a major failure to reform the world’s financial systems (189). Likewise the pope’s tough words for those who regard population growth as somehow damaging the environment and impeding economic development are spot-on (50).

Nonetheless, many conceptual problems and questionable empirical claims characterize the encyclical’s vision of contemporary economic life. In terms of environmental degradation, Laudato Si’ appears oblivious to the fact that the twentieth century’s worst economically driven pollution occurred as a result of centrally-planned state-industrialization schemes in former Communist nations. Anyone who’s visited Eastern Europe or the former USSR and witnessed the often-devastated landscape will quickly attest to the validity of that insight.

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chesterton-pope-francis-enclycialPope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si, is generating discussion across the web. For a round-up of responses and reactions from Acton, see Acton Speaks on the Environment.

There’s plenty left to explore, respond, and reflect on, but in the meantime, it’s worth noting an interesting parallel with another great Catholic thinker (as passed along by a friend of mine).

The beginning of the environmental encyclical leads off with the following statement about Earth being our “sister”:

LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.  This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.

These references to “sister earth” are sprinkled throughout the encyclical, and it’s metaphor that’s been used before by G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy: (more…)

immigrationAs the number of Republicans vying for the presidency reaches new levels of absurdity, candidates are scrambling to affirm their conservative bona fides. If you can stomach the pandering, it’s a good time to explore the ideas bouncing around the movement, and when necessary, prune off the poisonous limbs.

Alas, for all of its typical promotions of free enterprise, free trade, and individual liberty, the modern conservative movement retains a peculiar and ever-growing faction of folks who harbor anti-immigration sentiments that contradict and discredit their otherwise noble views. For these, opposing immigration is not about border control, national security, or the rule of law (topics for another day), but about “protecting American jobs” and “protecting the American worker.”

Consider the recent shift of Scott Walker. Once a supporter of legal immigration, Walker now says that immigration hurts the American worker, and that “the next president and the next Congress need to make decisions about a legal immigration system that’s based on, first and foremost, protecting American workers and American wages.” Or Rick Santorum, who has made no bones about his bid for the protectionist bloc. “American workers deserve a shot at [good] jobs,” he said. “Over the last 20 years, we have brought into this country, legally and illegally, 35 million mostly unskilled workers. And the result, over that same period of time, workers’ wages and family incomes have flatlined.” (more…)