BROADER PERSPECTIVE: STEWARDSHIP AS CREATION CARE
by Father John Chrysavgis
When we think of the term stewardship, we frequently consider only matters related to financial support. The prevalent rendering of the term oikonomia as "stewardship" or "economy" is not very illuminating as it provides both a linguistic as well as conceptual reduction of this critical and originally Scriptural word. In so doing, however, we have narrowed the scope of the Holy Bible's teaching and neglected the depth of our Church's Tradition about our place and role in the world, indeed at a time when such knowledge is more vital and critical than ever before.
If we turn to the Holy Church Fathers, we see that they attribute the highest importance to oikonomia (stewardship or economy), which in their eyes implied a broader and more inclusive concept of revelation and salvation, identified with God's vision and desire to save the whole world. For our great theological teachers and spiritual masters, economy in fact refers to our very salvation by the All-embracing love of God for all mankind and to the universal compassion of the Creator for all creation. Somewhere along the line, we unfortunately shrunk the theme of "stewardship" to purely monetary terms that primarily include making contributions to philanthropic organizations--probably as a result of a narrow interpretation of Holy Scripture, and possibly as a result of the rigid focus on modern society.
All of this invariably affects not just our understanding of the moral obligation that we have toward one another as human beings, but also inevitably distorts the worldview that shapes our moral responsibility toward creation. By limiting our attention to divine commandments for human compassion, we have invariably excised from Holy Scripture the clean mandate to creation care. Yet, these two dimensions of Christian life are integrally interrelated; one cannot envisage human progress without ecological preservation. The way we treat God's creation in nature essentially reflects the way we respect human beings created "in the image and likeness of God." The reality is that we should respond to nature with the same tenderness that we are called to respond to people. All of our spiritual activities are ultimately measured by their impact on the natural creation; just as all of our ecological choices are finally evaluated by their effect on the poor.
(Source: Stewardship Ministries: Department of Stewardship, Outreach and Evangelism)
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God