What does Mennonite Brethren theology have in common with that of other Christian denominations? And what are the distinctive emphases of Mennonite Brethren theology? Informed by Scripture, our Confession of Faith names the perspectives through which we read God’s Word in order to live as Christ’s followers. This series by the Board of Faith and Life explores the 18 articles of this formative document.
As 2018 approached, as is my custom, I spent several days listening to the Lord for a word for the coming year. This word serves as a beacon on the far horizon, a direction in which I purposefully move over the course of the year. It is usually a word such as silence or kindness, which points me in the direction of my personal deepening with Christ and becoming more like him.
To my surprise, the word from the Lord to me for 2018 was superfluous – not exactly the spiritual beacon I was expecting. I looked up the definition of the word – it means waste, excess, redundant, unneeded – and begun to pay attention to waste and excess in my life. I went around my home taking pictures of clothes, books, drawers full of spices, utensils and dishes, much of it rarely used. I became aware of the fact that a lot of the stuff I have is superfluous!
Article 15 in our Canadian MB Confession of Faith speaks to our responsibility as stewards who “hold something of value in trust for another through care and management” (Confession of Faith Commentary, page 165) and who eventually give an account to the owner. Humanity was appointed as caretakers and managers of creation; the church holds in trust the treasured asset of the gospel; you and I each are stewards, responsible caretakers of whatever gifts God has given to us. Moreover, the Scripture is quite explicit on what such responsible caretaking looks like.
To be a steward, managing God’s assets well means:
- We care for the environment God created for our enjoyment and sustenance. This is an individual responsibility, not one we pass off to governments.
How are you a good caretaker of the earth – your neighbourhood and the whole world?
- We serve God, not wealth. The Western mindset encourages the accumulation of great wealth. Such accumulation is not wrong, but it ought never to become the key factor in our decision making.
Who is your real master: God or the wealth he gives you to manage?
- We do not consume all we produce for ourselves. The gleaning principle in Leviticus 19:9–10 is just one of the many reminders to us, God’s wealth managers, that a portion of our personal production is meant to be given away. The amount you give away increases as your income and wealth increase. I have a friend of average income who has committed to give away a million dollars in her lifetime. Such focus necessitates thriftier living and a generous disposition. Living with the knowledge that we have only what has first been given to us by God is a key Christian conviction. Indulging while others go without is unthinkable to the Anabaptist mindset.
Are you balancing your income and spending in such a way so as to give generously and cheerfully?
- We find contentment in a simple, godly life. We live with unprecedented intrusions of media that continually pump enticements to accumulate more, to take advantage of a special offer, to meet a need that we didn’t even know we had. Amid such barrage of offers, can you recognize that the item or the experience in question may be superfluous to your life and calling as a responsible caretaker?
How are you learning to say no to excess and yes to simplicity?
- Westward well all our resources, including time, skills, and influence in ways that bring glory to the ultimate owner of all that you are and all that you possess.
Are you managing yourself well as an asset that belongs to God?
Some might consider an article on stewardship to carry less weight in the Confession of Faith than an article on the nature of God. Yet, it is out of the nature of God that articles such as the one on stewardship flow. God is the maker and owner of all there is. He is a generous and cheerful giver.
Our primary witness to the society around us is not based on our intellectual assent to theological truths; rather it comes from how we live out these convictions. Living as good caretakers of the manifold resources of God and imitators of his generous nature is part of that witness.
Hence, 2018 has been a year of purging and simplifying for me. I am slower to buy and quicker to give away, eager to discharge well my duty of a being good steward.
I encourage you to read Article 15 and the related Scripture references with your family or study group. Are there any changes in your life that the Lord would ask you to make as a steward of his creation?
[Ingrid Reichard is chair of the national faith & life team and pastor of development at Glencairn Church, Kitchener, Ont.