Thursday, July 31, 2008

Escaping Materialism with Principles of Stewardship

Our world has a big problem with materialism. You don’t have to look far to find manifestations of it. Debt and waste and pollution and poverty and excess are common problems. We can preach against materialism all we want, but until we learn righteous principles ourselves and teach them to our children, we will continue to have troubles with it.

I went through the scriptures and I found that the Lord has given us these principles of stewardship to follow so that we can overcome materialism.

1) Everything on earth belongs to the Lord and we are all His stewards.
And again, a commandment I give unto you concerning your stewardship which I have appointed unto you.
Behold, all these properties are mine, or else your faith is vain, and ye are found hypocrites, and the covenants which ye have made unto me are broken;
And if the properties are mine, then ye are stewards; otherwise ye are no stewards. (D&C 104:54-56)
Yes, we worked for the money to pay for what we have, but who helped us get the job? Who helped us with our education? The Lord is behind it all.

2) We need to be diligent in preserving what we have to be accounted wise stewards.
Thou shalt be diligent in preserving what thou hast, that thou mayest be a wise steward; for it is the free gift of the Lord thy God, and thou art his steward. (D&C 136:27)
One benefit of this diligence is that we will get to learn how things work and learn how to fix things, which is is a talent in itself.

3) Everyone will have to account to the Lord for the use of their stewardship.
That every man may give an account unto me of the stewardship which is appointed unto him.
For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures. (D&C 104:12-13)
But let him remember that his stewardship will I require at his hands. (D&C 124:14)

Our tithing settlement interviews should prepare us for the final interview with the Lord when we will be asked to account for how we’ve used our money, property, time, talents, space, and so on.

4) We need to do our part to help the poor and needy in order be accounted just and merciful stewards. The unjust, unwise, unmerciful stewards will have their stewardships taken from them and they will be tormented in hell.
Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment. (D&C 104:18, see also Luke 19:20-24)
The Lord wants us to do our part for the poor, because it is what He would do if He were in our place. As stewards, we are His agents.

5) The just, wise, and merciful stewards will have all things given to them, as well as receiving the stewardships of the unwise.
And behold, he that is faithful shall be made ruler over many things. (D&C 52:13)
For ye are the church of the Firstborn, and he will take you up in a cloud, and appoint every man his portion.
And he that is a faithful and wise steward shall inherit call things. Amen. (D&C 78:21-22)
And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
(And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. (Luke 19:24-26)
And whoso is found a faithful, a just, and a wise steward shall enter into the joy of his Lord, and shall inherit eternal life. (D&C 51:19)
And this shall be my seal and blessing upon you—a faithful and wise steward in the midst of mine house, a ruler in my kingdom.
(D&C 101:61)
6) There is more than enough on earth for everybody, because the Lord prepared it that way, but he also gave us choice of what to do with it.
For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. (D&C 103:17)
This completely contradicts the first thing anyone learns in economics—that there is scarcity. When we have the Lord telling us that there is more than enough for everyone, that means that any scarcity we have on earth has been created by man. I believe that we create scarcity when we require too much.

7) Providing for the saints must be done in the Lord’s way, not the world’s way. The Lord’s way of providing for the saints is to exalt the poor by humbling the rich.
But it must needs be done in mine own away; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. (D&C 104:16)
The world is always trying to look for ways of exalting the poor without the rich having to sacrifice anything. The world espouses “trickle down economics”, thinking that giving benefits to the rich will eventually benefit the poor. The Lord plainly tells us that is the wrong way to go about it. Those of us who are blessed beyond our needs must sacrifice our surplus.

8) The Lord wants us to be equal in temporal things. If we are grudging about it, the Lord withholds the abundance of the Spirit’s manifestations.
Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld. (D&C 70:14)
This is very interesting. The Lord doesn’t want us to hold back in any way. He wants us to be perfectly willing to do this and He will withhold an abundance of spiritual manifestations from us if we are grudging about equality. How many miracles and spiritual gifts are we missing out on?

9) We need to be careful to discern what is just and needful for our stewardships. No favoritism.
And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just— (D&C 82:17, emphasis added)
How do you know if your wants are just? You have to learn to analyze and debate just how much you need something for your stewardship. I’ve found that it is usually best to counsel about it with a close friend (who isn’t afraid to tell you that you don’t need something) or your spouse. Counseling helps you keep from being impulsive and helps you keep focused on meeting your needs.

I also think the “equal claim” term in the above scripture is neat. In the world today, businesses give top priority and attention to serving those who are willing to pay the most. The Lord’s way seems to be that everyone gets equal priority, because we are all His children.

10)Those who consecrate their labor are worthy of some sort of benefit. Consecrate in spiritual things, and you get extra spiritual manifestations.
He who is appointed to administer spiritual things, the same is worthy of his hire, even as those who are appointed to a stewardship to administer in temporal things;
Yea, even more abundantly, which abundance is multiplied unto them through the manifestations of the Spirit. (D&C 70:12-13)
11)Everyone has the responsibility to improve his stewardship to gain more talents, with the surplus to go to the church.
And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church— (D&C 82:18)
12) Everyone also needs to seek the interest of his neighbor and the glory of God, and not just looking out for number one.
Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. (D&C 82:19)
13) The Lord gives us the privilege of organizing ourselves according to His laws.
And thus I grant unto this people a privilege of organizing themselves according to my laws. (D&C 51:15)
I think this is really neat, because it gives us the opportunity to be proactive. It’s so that we can figure out how to live by correct principles in our own particular circumstances.

Also, the Lord knows that living the Law of Consecration can’t be forced upon us, even if it is a commandment; we have to organize ourselves in such a way that we are prepared to do it and then start doing it on our own.

Some ways that doctrines of stewardship have helped us:

About six months ago, I needed a new Mac laptop to replace my six year old one. My husband and I analyzed together what I should get to replace it. For about two days I was convinced by Steve Job’s reality distortion field that I should get a MacBook Air, but when I tried to justify it to my husband, I eventually saw that it really didn’t fit my needs and a MacBook would do the job just as well at about 2/3 the cost. When I got my new computer, I gave my old one away to someone who needed a computer but couldn't afford to get one.

Another example. When gas prices started really zooming up at the beginning of the summer, we found that we could not afford to drive both our cars. Devon had floated the idea of getting a scooter before, but when gas was cheap it seemed like a scooter would just be a toy. Now something with better gas mileage was a necessity. So we got our motorcycle licenses, and then we put a lot of effort into researching what kind of scooter to get that would best fit our needs. We were able to find one that had the cargo accessories we needed and which didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

I've also written extensively about stewardship in my book here.


S.Faux said...

Your book on "Isaiah's Insights" looks fantastic. I had not seen it before. Thanks for posting it, but have you thought about trying to get it published?

Great work!

In The Doghouse said...

What an awesome post on materialism and stewardship.

Isn't it interesting that we are cautioned about only one thing in this world, in our temple, and that is money.

Stewardship and money to me go hand and hand.

I also find it interesting that we covenant to live the Law of Consecration and then are given an opportunity individually to do so on something so obvious as our tithing donation slip. All the other categories for additional donations really make it possible for us to give any excess we have to the Lord now doesn't it?

Yes, extra blessings come from being able to live the Law of is the Celestial Law.

Unfortunately IMHO as a church we are waiting to be commanded... in all things, not opening our eyes and being a "wise" servant.

Great post!

Heidi A. said...

Powerful insights! It isn't by chance that the first commandment is first and sets the foundation for all the others.

I love the quote "If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will, in the end, not matter what you have chosen instead."

Michaela Stephens said...

s. faux, thanks for your encouraging words! I queried Deseret Book about it back aroudn 2006, but they didn't go for it, because they had another project going that they said had a similar theme and focus. I'm pretty sure they meant John Bytheway's "Isaiah For Airheads".

So here's my logic behind posting it online:
1)A published book has to be bought.
2)A published book has to be bought at a certain place.
3)LDS books are sold at a limited number of places.
4)The reading market for an LDS book is small.
5)The number of teens who read LDS books is even smaller.
6)I'd rather make my ideas more accessible and not get paid for them in hopes that the increased accessibility will help the ideas strengthen more people.