The Old Testament relates the concepts of stewardship, economics, and ecology in the vision of shalom. Often translated “peace,” the broader meaning of shalom is wholeness. In the Old Testament, shalom is used to characterize the wholeness of a faithful life lived in relationship to God. Shalom is best understood when we experience wholeness and harmony as human beings with God, with others, and with creation itself. The task of the steward is to seek shalom.
The concept of stewardship is first introduced in the creation story. In Genesis 1:26, the Bible affirms that every person is created in God’s image. But this gift brings with it a unique responsibility – to care for God’s creation. God chose to give human beings a divine image not so we would exploit creation to our own ends, but so we would be recognized as stewards of God. To have dominion over the earth is a trusteeship, a sign that God cares for creation and has entrusted it to our stewardship. Our stewardship of all the world’s resources is always accountable to God who loves the whole of creation and who desires that it exist in shalom. The intention of creation was that all should experience shalom, to know the goodness of creation.
Another theme of shalom is that in creation we are all related. Humans are not self-sufficient. We need God, others, nature. The story of the garden (Genesis 2) attempts to picture the complete and harmonious interrelatedness of all creation. There is shalom only when we recognize that interrelatedness and care for the whole. When we violate the rules of the garden, we are dismissed. In ecological terms, when we violate the principles of ecology, we suffer environmental damage.
As the story of the garden shows, God’s intention of shalom was not carried out. Sin intervened, and the shalom was broken. But God offered a way to restore shalom – redemption. And as God’s stewards we have a role in that redemption. Stewardship, then, is to become involved wherever wholeness is lacking and to work in harmony with God’s saving activity to reconcile, to reunite, to heal, to make whole.
ADAPTED From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2004.