“There’s no way we can escape accountability. We do make a difference — one way or the other. We are responsible for the impact of our lives. Whatever we do with whatever we have — money, possessions, talents, even time — we leave behind us as a legacy for those who follow. And regardless of our own scripting, we can exercise our unique human endowments and choose the kind of stewards we want to be” (Stephen R. Covey).
A STEWARD IS “A PERSON WHO MANAGES ANOTHER’S PROPERTY, FINANCES, OR OTHER AFFAIRS” (AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY). In the literal sense, there might not be many of us who are in a position of stewardship, but in a larger sense, every one of us is a steward, and it makes a huge difference to think of ourselves that way. Valuable resources of time, talents, money, and possessions have been entrusted to us. These are meant to be used, not merely for our own gratification, but for the greater good of the world around us. And this being true, the great question of life is whether we’re discharging our duty to manage these resources wisely and well. Acceptable stewardship, the kind that will stand up under final inspection, asks us to accept three important principles.
(1) Trust. The resources that are at our disposal have been entrusted to us. Strictly speaking, they don’t belong to us; they’ve simply been put into our hands for a while. We’re being trusted to use these things as they were intended to be used: for the common good.
(2) Responsibility. We are responsible for the choices we make. If our stewardship has not been honorable, no excuses will be accepted. Having been given a free will, we’re responsible for the results.
(3) Accountability. Whether you believe, as many of us do, that we’ll one day give an account of ourselves to our Creator, at least believe this: ideas and actions have consequences, and no matter what we do, there’ll eventually come a day of reckoning. This is true even regarding our own possessions. “The surplus wealth we have gained, to some extent at least, belongs to our fellow beings; we are only the temporary custodians of our fortunes, and let us be careful that no just complaint can be made against our stewardship” (Jacob Schiff).
Whatever is ours, there is really no safe middle ground: either we’ll use it unselfishly and sacrificially, or it will own us and destroy us.
“All you are unable to give possesses you” (André Gide).