These notes are taken from “The Message of Stewardship” by Ralph Cushman published in 1919 with several revisions since.
“The outstanding difference between the Christian conception of life and that of the pagan lies in the emphasis on a personal God who has a benevolent program for the saving and development of the whole world, a program which gives to every person his own responsible part. Jesus thus taught that life is a stewardship.”
John 18:36-37 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
- The philosophy of stewardship must include others.
“The splendor of Jesus’ philosophy of life lies primarily in his basic emphasis upon the fatherhood of the Creator and his loving concern for every one of his creatures.”
Seneca, the perfect Roman stoic philosopher, says: “O Neptune , you may save me if you will; you may sink me if you will; but whatever happens, I shall keep my rudder true.” Man seems determined to work out his destiny despite God, or in Seneca’s case; gods. The philosophy of stewardship sees us working with God just as Jesus understood He was called to “bear witness unto the truth”; so the good steward sees his life as an integral part of God’s working. God’s working touches every human soul.
Seneca worked with Caligula and Nero. I couldn’t find any evidence of Seneca examining Christianity. Gibbons says this is due to the narrow debate that defined the early church as a Jewish sect; was Jesus the Messiah or not. Caligula was the emperor that his statue placed in the Jerusalem temple. When Petronius attempted to carry the statue from the coast to Jerusalem he was confronted by 10,000 Pharisees who lied in the roads and made it known that they and many others would die rather than see the statue placed in the temple. Petronius halted. Two letters were sent from Rome; one, a death sentence for Petronius, the other announced the death of Caligula. The letter of Caligula’s death arrived first.
Seneca managed to survive the craziness of Caligula but failed to dodge the bullet of Nero’s insanity. His relationship as the premier philosopher of the emperors would cost him his life.
Jeremy Taylor: “Therefore as every man is wholly God’s own portion by the title of creation, so all our labors and care, all our powers and faculties must be wholly employed in the service of God, and even all the days of our life; that this life being ended, we may live with him forever.”
Pastor Jeremy Taylor was the pastor to royalty, specifically Charles 1, who would die at the hands of the parliamentarians under Cromwell. He would be imprisoned several times because of royal loyalties but would continue to write and minister. His works of maintaining Christian faith are still read and used today, the individual spiritual battle has not changed. When the royalist regained power is days of suspicion and prison would end.
Mary E. Albright: “O strange and wild is the world of men; Which the eyes of the Lord must see; With continents, islands and tribes and tongues, With multitudes bond and free; All kings of the earth bow down to him, And yet; he can think of me. For none can measure the mind of God Or the bounds of eternity; He knows each life that has come from him, To the tiniest bird and bee, For the love of his heart is so deep and wide it takes in even me.”
From The Indian Prayer Cycle (as far as I could tell it is a praying through the nations set up by the Episcopal church): “O Lord of hosts, who has given us our station and our weapons in thine army for the warfare of this life, setting comrades beside us and sending Jesus Christ before us; make us to feel the glory and strength of thy victorious advance and to her triumph song where Christ marches at the head of his saints, conquering, and to conquer; for his sake. Amen.”
- The Philosophy of Stewardship must include God.
Do we choose God and His will for our lives over all the promises of the world? We know how Jesus chose. Matt 4:8-11 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Robert Louis Stevenson: “No man can truly say that he has made a success of life unless he has written at the top of his life journal, ‘Enter God,’”.
Robert Louis Stevenson makes for great Christian detective work. His works are filled with biblical references and allusions. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” reads as the perfect illustration of Romans 6 and 7 and the battle with the flesh. Yet his adult life includes the rejection of his Presbyterian parents’ beliefs with a falling out with his father. He surrendered to the flesh in college being part of a secret society that rejected God to pursue the pleasures of the flesh. This combined with the new science of Wallace and Darwin, Russel Wallace being very instrumental in his life, led him further and further away from his young roots of Christian thinking and writing. Wallace combined the new evolutionary thinking with his own brand of Spiritism. Stevenson would find himself married to a divorced from a pastor woman, who would have stints of insanity, and her worthless son. His last years were spent in Samoa where his best friends were all English missionaries, one of them speaking well of him at his funeral.
John R. Mott: “The will of God was Jesus’ north star.”
John Mott was a Methodist layman. He headed the YMCA for many years. He was given a Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for his work with college students. He was best known for his book “The Evangelism of the World in this Generation”. His speaking motivated many young people to go to the mission fields.
Sarah Knowles Bolton: “I life the man who faces what he must; With step triumphant and a heart of cheer; Who fights the daily battle without fear, Sees his hopes fail, yet keeps unfaltering trust; That God is God; that somehow, true and just, His plans work out.”
Sarah Bolton married a wealthy man and used her position to better society. She wrote with the aim for people to improve society with faith and hard work. She would study profit sharing ideas as well as ways for women to engage in business. She would be a leader in the temperance movement. She lived what she wrote. She is a good picture of the church taking on the social issues of the day.
Henry Drummond: “God has a life plan for every human life in the eternal counsels of is will. When he arranged the destiny of every star and every sand-grain and every grass blade and each of those tiny insects which live but for an hour, the Creator had a thought for you and me. Our life was to be the slow unfolding of this thought, as the cornstalk from the corn or the flower from the gradually opening bud. It was a thought of what we were to be, of what we might become, of what he would have us to do with our days and years of influence with our lives.”
If you noticed a touch of evolution in Drummond’s quote, you noticed rightly. He was a scientist and an evangelist. He was able to combine his loves in a teaching position. He didn’t argue against evolution but wrote a book entitled “Natural Law in the Spiritual World” where he saw evolution as continuing on from the physical world to the spiritual world. He wrote the book. He went to Africa as a missionary and when he came back he was famous, as his book seemed to help the church come to terms with the scientific world of his day. How do I deal with this? We saw how evolutionary thinking and friendship with Russel Wallace messed up Robert Louis Stevenson. Can a man who does not stand against evolution, or cannot see the spiritual ramifications that go with believing in evolution be a man of God? How do we reconcile that with his sacrifices in the mission field? Nice to know that God is God.
III. Love in Jesus’ Philosophy of Stewardship
This is the start of Jesus’ ministry: Luke 4:16-21 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Dr. J. W. Bradley was a missionary to China. The village he ministered in had 164 families of which 148 of them were going to starve that winter. He did all he could under the circumstances. “A man sitting near, who had sold everything to keep his family from starving, said to him: ‘When you came here a few years ago I called you a foreign devil. Now I see you going about distributing bread to my people and ministering to the sick, and you say you are doing this for Jesus. Dr. Bradley, please tell me, who is Jesus?’”
Couldn’t find anything on Bradley; except maybe his daughter was the secretary for Chinese missions for the Presbyterian church. My search did lead me to some articles about Eric Little, the Olympic champion. It turns out after his victory at the Olympics he took off for missionary work in China. He would eventually marry a Canadian women and have children. When the war between Japan and China enveloped their lives; he sent his family home to Canada while he remained to minister in his place of calling. You get a beautiful description of his upbeat life as he ministered to everyone in the internment camp for foreigners run by the Japanese. He would die in the camp from a brain tumor of sorts.
William DeWitt Hyde: “Jesus taught us to make every human interest we touch as precious as our own, and to treat all persons with whom we deal as members of that beneficent system of mutual goodwill which is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
William DeWitt Hyde was a pastor, writer and president of a college. His book “The Five Great Philosophies of Life” was used as the springboard for this book comparing Jesus’ stewardship to the philosophies of the world.
A few quotes:
“Christianity of this simple, vital sort is the world’s salvation. Criticised by enemies and caricatured by friends; fossilised in the minds of the aged, and forced on the tongues of the immature; mingled with all manner of exploded superstition, false philosophy, science that is not so, and history that never happened; obscured under absurd rites; buried in incredible creeds; professed by hypocrites; discredited by sentimentalists; evaporated by mystics; stereotyped by literalists; monopolised by sacerdotalists; it has lived in spite of all the grave-clothes its unbelieving disciples have tried to wrap around it, and holds the keys of eternal life.”
“Love has no desire to deceive, and hence no fear of being disbelieved.”
“The end of all our actions is to be free from pain and fear; and when once we have attained this, all the tempest of the soul is laid, seeing that the living creature has not to go to find something that is wanting, or to seek something else by which the good of the soul and of the body will be fulfilled.”
“He who is least in need of the morrow will meet the morrow most pleasantly.”
“We ought to look round for people to eat and drink with, before we look for something to eat and drink: to feed without a friend is the life of a lion and a wolf.”
― William De Witt Hyde, The Five Great Philosophies of Life