I don't know about you, but my memory of what good stewardship was went something like this: be frugal, make the most of what has been given to me, and give to charity.
Frugality, and the push to stretch every dollar, was at the core of my definition of stewardship. This approach was based upon economics, efficiency, and business finance. It was not based upon the actual definition of stewardship, nor its root word, steward.
- the office, duties, and obligations of a steward
- the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care
A steward is someone who acts on another's behalf in the same way that they would conduct their affairs if they were present. It begs us to define the ownership's motivations, way of conducting business, and their goals. As Christians, and stewards of what God has given us, we should endeavor to find out what are God's goals for the money that we have been entrusted to allocate on His behalf. Likewise, we should conduct transactions as if God Himself were doing it. Based on this, I sought out what I thought God had defined as His goals.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:36-40
Therefore, I concluded, what I buy must be based on how much I can love God with the purchase (allocation) and how much love for my neighbor I am achieving. When using the example of shoes, a purchase of a pair of NIKE running shoes, in my opinion, results in some love for myself, but little love for my neighbor. Those shoes are not made from sustainable materials and the workers are not paid a fair wage. Even if I get a crazy good deal and spend very little money, this is not good stewardship. I doubt that God would buy a pair of these running shoes.
On the flipside, God would buy a pair of shoes that pay their workers greater than a fair wage, give them great working conditions, and are produced with sustainable materials. The products that meet these criteria would often be viewed as luxury goods due to their high quality materials and higher prices. As an example, the recent dress shoes I bought from NISOLO were around $150, a number that would have been unfathomable to pay a few years ago. Heck, I could go to KOHL'S and get 2-3 very decent pairs of dress shoes for that much. That would be very efficient, but not good stewardship.
Luxury Goods Are Okay
The implications of this concept are that it is okay to buy luxury goods, or what is considered luxury, if those products treat their workers in a way that God would be proud of. If the materials used to create the products were sustainable and had a very low impact on the communities in which they were produced, God would be proud of that. It is reasonable to assume, that in order to love your neighbor, you will have to pay higher prices for things. And that's okay. It is good stewardship. You are allocating resources in the way that God Himself would.
NOTE: NO COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE ENDORSED, SUPPORTED, OR APPROVED OF THIS ARTICLE. THESE THOUGHTS ARE THE AUTHOR'S OPINIONS ONLY.