Jesus spoke of a property owner who met with his servants before leaving on a journey.
I’m going away for awhile. I want you to look after my property while I’m gone. He gave money to each servant in proportion to his estimate of their ability. Put this money to work while I’m gone, he said.
When he returned, he called his servants together to give account of what they had done with the money.
I doubled your money, the first servant said. And the second. But the third said, I was afraid of you so I hid your money. Here it is.
The owner commended the first two servants, but he indicted the third. You should have at least invested my money and earned some interest. (see Matthew 25:14-27)
The point of the story? We will be held accountable to steward what God has entrusted to us. You have gifts, talents, abilities, a bounty of (divinely placed) human capital. You are to be a wise steward of that capital.
Everyone is a steward; the only question is will you be a wise steward or a foolish one?
A gifted artist I know has not painted for 20 years. Every time I see her I ask, “Have you started painting again?” Her answer is always “No.” Finally I asked, “Why are you not painting? You paint such beautiful things!” She said, “Because painting is not spiritual.” She had a dualistic mentality that only spiritual things are worth doing. When she said that I cried inside. Think of all the beauty robbed from the earth and art not available for people to enjoy because she has not painted for two decades.
The fact is, God governs the universe by human obedience. The faithful response of human stewards is one of three ways God governs his creation (the other two being by his laws and ordinances and by miracles).
God created us and gave us the ability and responsibility to steward the creation. While God governs directly through his laws and ordinances, and through miracles, human beings govern by delegated authority, i.e. through wisdom. Wisdom sustains the universe through human obedience and creative expression.
God intends us to be wise stewards of our own lives, of our relationships with others, and of the rest of creation. God wants humans to flourish. He made us for a purpose. He intends that purpose to be fulfilled in our lives.
This carries many implications:
- Human work is a creation gift from God. He expects us to engage in the development of the creation.
- God, as Creator, can intervene in all aspects of the creation.
- If we govern like God, if we imitate him, we will govern with wisdom.
- When we govern according to God’s ordinances good things naturally result.
Today we see profound brokenness everywhere: the evil of slavery (including sex slavery), caste systems, tribalism, sexism, and religious and political persecution. Many communities face natural evils such as drought, disease, and hunger. All these are examples of the brokenness that comes from human folly. And we are called to speak truth to the lies behind these problems. By the application of creation wisdom we are to bring healing to the brokenness in the world. We will be held accountable for our stewardship.
Wisdom Leads to the Consummation of the Universe
We often speak of “human history” as if it were about us. History is God’s story. Humans have a part in it because God created humans and loves humans. From our perspective human history is about us. The stories of families and tribes, of wandering nomads, of the development of agriculture and technology, the accumulation of power into ruling clans, the rise of nations, the clash of kings in battles … all these stories of human triumphs and travails leave us with the impression that we are at the center of the story. This impression is profoundly mistaken. History is God’s story. He is taking it where he will. And the end of history will be the consummation of all that God has purposed.
The end of wisdom is the Divine Glory. Wisdom created the universe, sustains the universe and calls people to engage in HIStory and to contribute to the consummation of history. As we explore creation and the created order, we see more and more of God’s glory. God has revealed himself all around us. He has hidden things for us to discover(see Proverbs 25:2). He has places for us to explore. He has imagined things that we might create through our own imagination and creativity. We are the “discovers,” “explorers,” and the “creators!” Wise humans will come to understand the creation ordinances (discover God’s thoughts after him) and know the One who is wisdom so their lives and governments will be rightly ordered.
David Scott summarizes: “Through scholarship, humankind discovers God’s design and forms this knowledge into an imitation of God’s design in the disciplines of the arts and sciences.” Man’s (secondary) creation may be summed up in a word: culture.
As secondary creators, humans are a picture of the Primary Creator and His Creation. As man creates culture, God is glorified and the earth is filled with the knowledge of God. The things made for God’s glory will be “transposed up” to become masterpieces in the City of God. This circle of creation, discovery, imitation, and glory is the circle of knowledge.
God is the source of wisdom. Wisdom comes from him. But he has not kept it to himself. To the humble man he shows his secrets, the wonders of his wisdom. An ancient psalmist reflected on this powerful truth:
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise,
because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
From a forthcoming book by Darrow Miller and Gary Brumbelow