I must admit that as I cracked opened this book on stewardship I was one of those who (as the back cover puts it) felt like they’ve “heard that theme too often.” Many stewardship discussions, sermons and articles I encounter focus on how much we should tithe or what we can do to spread Western wealth into places and to people who are suffering and in need. These are excellent topics but often limited in scope, leaving me without any deeper understanding of what to do with all my “stuff” or how to wrestle with that overwhelming disparity between Western wealth and apathy and the overwhelming needs of those in my country as well as other parts of the world.
Stewardship goes much deeper than how much we put in the offering basket or send to organizations that support and aid the poor and oppressed—and that (thankfully) is what Behu Hussein and Lynn Miller get at in this book.
This book reminds me somewhat of the New Testament epistles—side-by-side letters written by different voices to believers in different cultures wrestling with how to live out the Kingdom life. Hussein, a Mennonite leader from Ethiopia, provides the first section of the book, actually an adaptation of a booklet he wrote for the Meserete Krsos Church (MKC) “laying out the biblical case for stewardship, and then suggesting highly practical and specific ways for helping the ideas to work.” The MKC lost foreign support in the early 1990s and faced the challenge of supporting themselves in an impoverished economy. Accordingly, Hussein’s emphasis is on helping Ethiopian believers see the biblical and practical reasons for generous stewardship and how to view their responsibility when it comes to their money, caring for each other’s needs and the work of the church.
As a North American, Miller’s section—somewhat larger than Hussein’s—particularly resonates with me. He echoes Hussein’s early declaration that all things belong to God, and understanding this is grasping the basis of stewardship. Miller develops this further, helping us see that this stewardship is best done out of a grateful response to God’s love and generosity. If we really get what it means to be loved by God—and to love him and love others—then we’ll naturally respond generously to the needs of those around us. Miller also urges us to expand our view of stewardship from only our financial resources to also include our property, time, talents and gifts—a much more holistic view of Kingdom life. In addition, Miller’s years of helping believers practice stewardship within the North American culture really shows as he taps into our lack of and craving for community. I appreciated the interspersed practical examples of how groups of believers can build biblical community through the sharing of their resources.
The book also includes a collection of stories from individuals and churches around the world as well as a small group discussion guide.
I do wish the book included more about the Ethiopian culture so that I could place their stewardship challenges and practices more in context. More of their stories might help North American readers better understand their more regulated and systematic approach to stewardship.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Hussein and Miller get at the root of how believers should approach stewardship and lay out practical ways to practice it—both individually and as communities in different cultures and economic situations. This book goes from my desk to the “keeper” shelf—the one where I collect titles to resource and recommend to others.