I intend to connect two concepts not always seen as related. I am talking about stewardship and the education of our children. What is the purpose of Christian stewardship? What role does it play in the instruction of our kids?
When analysed in-depth, stewardship and education are more closely related than we might think. The potential of stewardship to inform and develop our children’s values—a major goal of the education process—and give direction and structure to their lives has been underutilized. Stewardship performs a function comparable to that of the spinal cord in our bodies. It gives our lives direction and foundation.
EDUCATION, STEWARDSHIP AND REDEMPTION
Church cofounder Ellen White linked education to redemption, stating: “In the highest sense the work of education and redemption are one.”¹ She was absolutely right, since the foundation of both sciences—education and redemption—is Jesus. Consequently, to educate is to redeem, and “the true object of education is to restore the image of God in the soul.”²
It is vital to retain this broad vision. The one-dimensional approach that sees education as the mere acquisition of scientific knowledge strips it of its eternal sense.
Likewise, we must promote a wholistic view of stewardship and avoid an unhealthy reductionist approach. Many believers associate stewardship only with the return of tithes and offerings. They are indeed related, but stewardship is much more than the faithful return of tithes and offerings, the clever use of time and talents, or the care of our bodies. Although all these elements are a fundamental part of stewardship, they are not stewardship itself.
Reflecting on the relationship of stewardship and money, LeRoy Edwin Froom declares:
This mighty principle neither begins nor ends with money. Tithing is stewardship as far as it goes. But stewardship in its larger aspects is the all-inclusive principle of the whole of life. It is not a theory nor a philosophy but a working program. It is in verity the Christian law of living. It forms the Christian appraisal of privilege, opportunity, power, and talent. It is necessary to an adequate understanding of life, and essential to a true, vital religious experience. It is not simply a matter of mental assent but is an act of the will and a definite, decisive transaction touching the whole perimeter of life.³
This same author indicates that “one may pay tithe and yet be far from the Spirit of Stewardship.”⁴ Some of the most celebrated philanthropists in the twenty-first century are either agnostics or atheists. Their sense of generosity is admirable, but they are not sufficient as role models for would-be Christian stewards.
One of the greatest dangers of a reductionist approach to stewardship is that it excludes our children. To achieve the educational potential of stewardship training, we need a wholistic approach. The idea I want to point out is that stewardship touches all aspects of our lives. Stewardship is redemption, and it also seeks to restore God’s image in the steward.
STEWARDSHIP AND WORLDVIEW
A comprehensive view of stewardship suggests that its goal is to help us develop a worldview based on biblical values. A worldview is a particular philosophy of life. “Everyone has a worldview. Whenever any of us thinks about anything—from a casual thought (Where did I leave my watch?) to a profound question (Who am I?)—we are operating within such a framework. In fact, it is only the assumption of a worldview—however basic or simple—that allows us to think at all.”⁵
A philosophy of life for some might be: “This life is everything; there will be nothing beyond it.” Someone with that mentality might indeed live like this: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:23, NIV). Another very different philosophy of life could be: “This life is not the end; there will be a final judgment,” and “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10, NIV).
According to James W. Sire, the seven fundamental questions addressed by any worldview are: What is prime reality—the really real? What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? What is a human being? What happens to a person at death? Why is it possible to know anything at all? How do we know what is right and wrong? What is the meaning of human history?⁶
The exciting thing is that all these questions addressed by the educational process find a perfect answer in stewardship. It all begins by recognizing the Creator and acknowledging His relationship with the creature. This is the initial task of the book of Genesis.
STEWARDSHIP AND VALUES
There is nothing like the Bible to educate in values (2 Tim. 3:15-17), and nothing like stewardship to put those values into action. Experts in human behavior agree that the first seven years of life are essential in character formation. Values such as obedience, respect, honesty, kindness, generosity, regularity, perseverance, diligence, and many more have usually already been integrated at that age.
Experts at the University of California in Riverside (UCR) noted that:
A person’s character and personality are largely established by the time they are very young. The traits that will define that individual throughout his or her life can be clearly identified when he or she is as little as 7 years old. In a new investigation, scientists show that, by the time they start going to school, children already exhibit the personality traits that will remain with them throughout their lives.7
It is axiomatic that the best education is the one that provides the precept and the example, and stewardship is precisely structured in that sense. As already said, Christian stewardship is the backbone of the Christian life. Anyone can claim to love God but ignore His law; however, stewardship enables one to support with deeds what you profess.
Imagine a father, mother, pastor, or teacher who wishes to educate their little lambs in values based on Christian stewardship. They would soon realize that it is the perfect meta-narrative to anchor all the necessary principles for this life and the life to come.
This first principle informs the child where he comes from and clarifies who he is, thus becomes the starting point for other values.
Once children recognize that they are creatures of God made in His image, they can clearly understand why a code of ethics congruent with their origin is expected of them. From this great umbrella of Christian stewardship, the mentor will integrate all the other values. It will therefore be easy to teach children to recognize God’s rights over them. Obedience will take a new dimension. Returning tithe and offerings, as well as practicing generosity with others, will make more sense for you.
When we look at the case of Joseph, for example, and how the principles of excellence (Gen. 39:5, 6), faithfulness (verses 7-12), planning (Gen. 41:46), saving (verses 19, 56, 57), and many more shaped his life as a steward, we realize that stewardship has much to contribute to the human development of all of us, and especially of our children.
¹ Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 30.
² Ellen G. White, Mind, Character, and Personality (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2001), vol. 1, p. 359.
³ LeRoy E. Froom, Stewardship in Its Larger Aspects (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1928), p. 2.
⁵ James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004), p. 19 .
⁶ Ibid., pp. 22, 23.
⁷ Tudor Vieru, “Our Personality Is Fully Developed By the Age of 7,” softpedia, August 6, 2010; https:// news.softpedia.com/news/Our-Personality-Is-Fully- Developed-By-the-Age-of-7-151093.shtml.