Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Home Economics is Stewardship (Money 4)


“Give an account of your stewardship.”
(Luke 16:2 NKJV)

When I attended a small-town high school (in Easton, Illinois, population 350), virtually every female student in the school took courses in Home Economics, while virtually every male student took courses in Agriculture. My older brothers, Tim and Rod, and I studied “Ag, “while my older sisters, Marilyn and Barb, studied “Home Ec.” According to Wikipedia:

Much less common today, [Home Economics] was, and is, most commonly taught in high school. Home economics courses are offered around the world and across multiple educational levels. Historically, the purpose of these courses was to professionalize housework, to provide intellectual fulfillment for women, to emphasize the value of “women's work” in society, and to prepare them for the traditional roles of sexes.

Nevertheless, the phrase “Home Economics” itself is redundant. It is unnecessary to repeat the term “home.” The term “economics” is comprised of two Greek roots: OIKOS/eco- (which means “home”) and NOMOS/-nomics (which means “law”). Put them together and you have “the law of the home.” Another word for home is “household.” Today, the root “eco-” even carries the sense of “earth-as-our-home” as with the word “eco-logy.”

LOGOS/-logy means the study or logic of something (such as the earth). But “ecology” carries a slightly different connotation from the similar word “ge-ology” which also means the study or logic of the earth. The Greek word for Earth or land is GĒ/ge-, as in “ge-ography” in which we map (or graph) the Earth or land. The slightly different connotation between ecology and geology is involved with the concept of “stewardship.” Ecology pertains to “stewardship” of the Earth, just as Economy pertains to “stewardship” of the home or household.

Since there is so much discussion of “stewardship” among modern-day churches, it is surprising that only one of the four Gospel writers in the New Testament employs the OIKONOMOS/OIKONOMIA (=economist/economy) “stewardship” terminology: our friend Luke—the money management expert. The Apostle Paul (with whom Luke was well-acquainted) and the Apostle Peter (who, like Paul, used Silas [aka, Silvanus] as a secretary/amanuensis) also use the terminology. Peter’s only use, in 1 Peter 4:10 NKJV, commands: “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” In 1 Corinthians 9:17, Paul views the preaching of the Gospel as something he has been entrusted with—a “stewardship.” Likewise, in Ephesians 1:9-10 and 3:9 and Colossians 1:25, he views the “mystery” of God’s will which he has received as an OIKONOMIA/stewardship for which he is answerable. In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, he refers to himself, Apollos, and Cephas all as “stewards” of the mystery of God, and states: “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (NKJV). In Ephesians 3:2, it is the OIKONOMIA of the grace of God. In 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul appears to pass the responsibility for stewardship of the word/OIKONOMIA along to Timothy. In Titus 1:7, Paul tells Titus to appoint elders in every city who will be God’s “stewards.” In a purely secular example, Paul states in Galatians 4:2 that children are not under their own authority and control, but are placed under “stewards.” In Paul’s only purely money-related use of the terminology, Romans 16:23 mentions Erastus, the treasurer (steward) of the city. In the “treasurer” sense, it is interesting that the role of treasurer among Jesus and his twelve disciples was given to Judas Iscariot (John 12:6 and 13:29)—undoubtedly, a poor steward, who even sold Jesus to the high priests for thirty pieces of silver.

The notion, however, that we must be good stewards of the money with which we have been entrusted by God is found in neither Paul nor Peter nor in the other New Testament writers—other than Luke. In my article in the KB Journal, “Burke, Perelman, and the Transmission of Values:  The Beatitudes as Epideictic Topoi,” I write:

Only Luke records two parables on stewardship.  In the parable of the steward who forgave many debts that were owed to his “rich” boss who was firing him, his boss commended him because he had [subsequently] done wisely. In the parable of the rich man and the poor beggar Lazarus, both die and the rich man finds himself in torment while the poor man is relaxing in Abraham’s bosom.  Abraham tells the rich man: “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus received evil things; but now here he is comforted and you are in anguish” (Luke 16:1-26).

Although the rich man and Lazarus parable does not specifically contain the terminology of stewardship (OIKONOMOS/OIKONOMIA), it follows shortly after Luke’s key parable of stewardship in chapter 16, and appears to be grouped by Luke along with the earlier parable about dealing with money, including the statement by Jesus in 16:13 (NKJV), also found in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The other Lukan parable about stewardship is found in Luke 12:42-48 (NKJV):

“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing [having his waist girded and his lamp burning, waiting for his master, when he returns from the wedding and knocks so that he may open to him immediately] when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. … For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.”

Stewardship Principle #1: Do Not Waste

While the parable about a faithful and wise steward “appears” to pertain to the management of money (and home/household economics), its true significance, as Luke employs it, is directed towards being constantly prepared for Jesus’ return. Nevertheless, the comment about eating, drinking, and being drunk seems to equate to the Luke 16:1 accusation lodged against the steward that he had been “wasting” (DIASKORPIZŌ, literally “scattering”) his master’s goods. This is the same term Luke uses in the previous chapter (15:13) to describe how the Prodigal Son “wasted” his substance with riotous living. Seemingly, “wasting” one’s money on alcohol and riotous living is unacceptable “stewardship.”

On the other hand, giving away that money that belongs to one’s master is not necessarily poor stewardship. It seems counterintuitive that the steward in Luke 16 who was charged with “wasting” his master’s goods would be subsequently praised for forgiving various debts owed to his master. He went to each of his master’s debtors and forgave each a portion of their debt. Would this not constitute being further wasteful of his master’s goods? Not, if his master were a champion of debt forgiveness. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matt. 6:12).” (In Matt. 18:28-34, Jesus condemns an individual who refused to forgive a debt, after he had been forgiven an exponentially larger debt.) Furthermore, both the master and the previously wasteful steward in Luke understood an important public relations principle:

[A] certain creditor … had two debtorsOne owed five hundred denariiand the other fifty … he freely forgave them both. ... [W]hich of them will love him more?”“I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” … “You have rightly judged.” (Luke 7:41-43 NKJV).  

Since the “wasteful” steward desired the good will of those whom he forgave debt, he was called “shrewd” by his master. Whether the courts end up agreeing or disagreeing with President Biden’s plan for America to forgive student loans, for instance, it is clear that the president’s intent is to purchase “goodwill” (in the form of votes) from those voters whose debts will have been forgiven. Even his “attempt” to proclaim forgiveness of student loans appears to have garnered some support from young voters in the 2022 midterm election. There is a clear public relations factor in debt forgiveness. Jesus’s example in Luke 7, however, was a parable pertaining to Jesus forgiving a sinful woman whose reputation was terrible. Jesus made the forgiveness parable, using debt forgiveness as a metaphor. He is offering an example of the good will that is generated by forgiving debts as well as sins. Nevertheless, forgiving debt is never condemned in Luke, or anywhere else in the New Testament. It is not “wasteful.” Often, in a public relations sense, it is excellent stewardship. At the very least, if one has been forgiven, it is incumbent upon that individual to forgive others.

Stewardship Principle #2: Do Not Abuse Those in Your Household


In the Luke 12:42-48 (NKJV) parable, Jesus states concerning the “faithful and wise steward, … his master will make [the steward] ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season.” The wicked steward, however, “begins to beat the male and female servants.” Females from my generation will understand that this is a principle of Home Economics/Stewardship. While my dad engaged in a good-sized farming operation, my mom generally served as household steward of the profits he reaped. Don’t get me wrong. Dad still made the decisions about buying all of the farm machinery used to make his business go.  He negotiated the purchase of land, seed, fertilizer, fuel, pesticides, herbicides, etc. He made the car deals. But Mom managed all of the money for the household. She bought the groceries, the clothes, the furniture, the household items. I remember going on shopping trips with her to Springfield, Illinois, for clothing; to the grocery store in Havana, Illinois, for food. I loved shopping for items at the Havana bakery with her, because I would wind up with cream horns or “fudge squares.” I never asked my dad to purchase such things, because it was always understood that those matters fell under Mom’s stewardship. I didn’t always receive everything I asked for, but I always received my “portion of food in due season.” I received my fair share of spankings as a child, but my parents never “beat” me.

If one has received the “gift” of a household (spouse, children, grandchildren), one has an obligation (debt) “to give them their portion of food in due season,” to refrain from abusing them (though painful-but-not-harmful spankings may, occasionally, be required for small children). Even leaving an estate for one’s children at one’s death can be considered good stewardship. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:14 (NKJV) asserts: “the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” My parents did this. Prior to her death (and following my dad’s death), my mom sold their farm and divided the profits equally among my five siblings and me. That gift allowed me to pay cash for the home in which I now live. My wife and I have, ourselves, now saved up a fair-sized estate that we do not anticipate dissipating during the remaining years of our lives (Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!). I expect that my own children will be able to divide our estate equally to help them in their retirement years. While this teaching from 2 Corinthians allows me to justify my persuasive efforts when I was a financial consultant, it is just one matter pertaining to the next stewardship principle.

Stewardship Principle #3: Be Constantly Preparing to Give an Accounting (Luke 16:2)

Even if, as in the case of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-22, Matthew 19:16-29, Luke 18:18-30), you never personally sold all of your possessions and gave the money to the poor … even if, as in the case of Barnabas and the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37), you never personally sold all of your possessions and laid all of the profits at the feet of the apostles, still, you do not “own” what are putatively considered your possessions and wealth. All you have belongs to God (Deuteronomy 10:14). You are only the steward. To view yourself in that way is to be “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). As a steward, you are personally poor, but responsible for how you manage all of the things God has entrusted to you (money, health, skills, intellect, and the gospel). This past week, my family considered how even our vacations could provide opportunities to be stewards. What things do you do on vacation that advance God’s kingdom?

So long as you are not “wasting” what God has given you, you have been given considerable latitude as to how to invest His resources. Just be prepared to justify your investments. (There is a grey area between “justifying” and “rationalizing” one’s stewardship decisions.) If the criterion for successful stewardship is found in the parable of the Talents, where the good stewards were successful in doubling the wealth of the master, I have, at times, been a poor steward. When the Walt Disney Corporation took a stand against the State of Florida decision to prohibit woke sexual instruction in kindergarten through 3rd grade schools, I established a website: NotWaltsFault.com (now available only by Googling “NotWaltsFault.com”) and produced hundreds of Tshirts, but with no profit. However, at least, I can offer an accounting. I did what I thought might advance the values system of the Bible and protect our children. In the past, I wrote and recorded some Christian music without profit. I also collaborated with a former music professor on two full-length Christian musicals without profit. Even the writing and publication of this blog has generated no financial return, but I have had hundreds of thousands of hits on various posts, so I can give an accounting. Some of my ventures have also been financially successful, but I think the accounting of being a steward is to be found in the motives of our stewardship, not in the financial results. Even the “wasteful” steward was applauded by his master for forgiving debts owed to the master!

My mother was quite good at home economics/stewardship (in addition to the stewardship of her biblical knowledge). She didn’t generate extra money for the family, except for those occasions in which she served as a substitute teacher, but she managed well the household funds that my dad generated. I don’t recall her ever having to give an account, but I’m sure that she could have easily done that. She didn’t waste. She didn’t abuse the household. She was faithful and trustworthy in her role. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:2: “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (NKJV). As Jesus asks in Luke 12:42 (NKJV): “Who then is that faithful and wise steward?” Do you and I meet the standard as stewards of God’s wealth?