I was at REI for a few last minute Christmas gifts last week and noticed an advertisement on the front door. It read: Stewardship - Just a fancy word for Karma. The words danced over a man hiking in beautiful scenery. He seemed to enjoy the view from his perch in a high forest.
As I wandered through the store looking for gloves and a book, I wondered about that comparison. Is it fair to dumb down a word like stewardship? We hardly use it and rarely understand its broad compassion. Like any brave responsibility that is also a privilege, stewardship is both grave and joyful.
While Karma preaches a message of interconnectedness and harmony, it is also motivated by plain old self interest. We wish to do well for the sake of rewards and promotions in the next life, taking care of others because failing to do so will result in frightening consequences.
We are good at speaking about environmental stewardship as a "should". We can debate the legality of caring for God's earth and all the resources we've been entrusted with. Most of the conversations I hear in the media are about duty and sound fear based. Here, the church has an opportunity to stand up and proclaim the other side of the Stewardship/Karma coin. In Genesis God called us into the grand design as co-creators, workers in the kingdom and stewards of gifts entrusted.
Yes, it is our responsibility to use less and save more, to reuse and carefully consider how our choices impact the whole community on earth. But we are motivated by more than a good lecture and fear of what future generations will call us if we neglect or reject this duty. Stewardship is also a joyful privilege, a call to this challenge by God in the garden and again by each other in 2009. We get to participate and grow in grace by striving to care for something bigger than ourselves.
Instead of dumbing down loaded words like Stewardship and Karma, let's make room for the conversation necessary to become a humankind taught the need for unity by the law and freed to make a different through the power of the gospel.