(I am writing monthly about stewardship for our school’s development newsletter. Part one can be found here. I have combined my second and third articles into this one blog post.)
Let’s go back and look at Genesis 2:15. Most translations seem to use language found here:
- The LordGod took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (NIV)
- And the LordGod took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (KJV)
The concepts here are important.
1—To “work” or “dress”
The first reaction to the word “work” is a surprise. In the perfect world, God still gave “work” to Adam and Eve. Thus, to work in and of itself was not a curse—how many of us can say that we agree with that today?
The meaning of this phrase is to provide the right environment to grow. In a very literal sense, we prepare the soil, fertilize, water, weed, and sometimes take even more drastic measures (such as burning the land, pollinating, crop rotation, or thinning crops.)
What does that look like if we apply that concept to other aspects of life? How are we providing the right environment for our physical well-being? Spiritually? Emotionally? Intellectually? What about our relationships with family and friends?
2—To “take care of” or “keep”
The meaning of this phrase is to provide protection for that which is under your care. Again, in a very literal sense, it is the farmer who puts up a fence to keep the cattle out of the crops.
What does that look like if we apply it to other aspects of life? Do we protect our body? Soul? What do we do to strengthen and protect ourselves emotionally and intellectually? What about relationships with family and friends?
The combined effect is to cause that which is under our care to flourish. Notice that as we unpack the terminology of stewardship, there is nothing said of “giving” or “money.” Instead, we see that “stewardship” connotes “responsibility” and “discipline.” (see Titus 2:11-14)
The first lesson we learn regarding stewardship: Stewardship is about providing the conditions to flourish.