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Vibrant Stewards Promote Justice (Characteristic 5)

By Michele Hermansen, 02/14/13, 4:30PM CST

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"Justice – it's not just us! We are the people we have been waiting for."

As stewards, we seek to understand the impact of social systems and structures. We align our decisions and actions to work toward universal peace and justice.

What exactly is justice? 

According to the dictionary: moral rightness; equity; honor; fairness; due reward or treatment

I propose that justice includes basic human rights – food, water, shelter, safety and resources sufficient to meet daily needs.

I suspect that most of us haven’t thought of promoting justice as a component of a life of stewardship. Yet as stewards, we are caretakers of all that God has created. Today I will simply share some questions, thoughts and resources on the complex subject of justice, with the hope that it will spark further thought, learning, conversation and action.  

“One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” (Pledge of Allegiance) 

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, … and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (preamble to the Constitution)

As a country, we have spent over 200 years trying to define and refine what justice is, and carry out those beliefs in our actions. At the time our founders wrote the words above, it appears they had a different understanding of “all” than we have today. Is justice a value system?  

Nearly all of us live in warm houses, dress in warm clothes, and have plenty of food for three meals a day and more. When we turn on one of the many faucets in our home or place of work, we are assured to have clean, safe water to drink or wash. Is it justice that we live in this environment? Is it justice that others will never live in an environment like ours? Does God love us more? Do we deserve more of God’s blessings? Are less wealthy people/countries somehow less blessed? Are my kids more entitled to an education than the children of Mwatasi? Is my dog more entitled to a healthy life than children in sub-Saharan Africa?

Blessings or privileges? is the title of an article in the April 2011 edition of The Lutheran. It made the point that we have confused God’s blessings with our privileges. The opportunity to own material things is ours as a result of our economic privilege. Privilege is a result of social construction, not divine providence. We are citizens of a particularly wealthy nation. When we equate God’s blessing with material things, it can give rise to an attitude that we are an exceptional country that is somehow more blessed and better than the rest of the world because we are materially privileged. Perhaps we aren’t necessarily exceptional – just privileged. (Email me if you’d like to read the entire article.)

A few resources on justice:

•    Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (www.csjstpaul.org) 

•    United Nations Millennium Development Goals (www.un.org/milleniumgoals)

•    Harvard University’s Justice with Michael Sandel (www.justiceharvard.org)  

•    Book:  Enough, Why The World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Thurow and Kilman

In closing, I share the best definition of justice that I’ve seen, and a call to action from 92-year-old June Kjome, a truly vibrant steward and justice advocate from LaCrosse, WI.  

Characteristics of Vibrant Stewards

1.     Trust God’s abundance

  • a. We embody an attitude of gratitude and generosity.
  • b. We believe we are called and freed to be caretakers of all that we are and have.
     

2.    Ground ourselves in biblical and theological principles

  • a. We believe in God as creator, and Jesus as role model and redeemer.
  • b. We listen to and interpret all of scripture with an ear for stewardship themes.
     

3.    Hold a holistic perspective

  • a. We steward our whole lives including our time, energy, wisdom, bodies, money and other resources.
  • b. We integrate our faith into our whole life.
     

4.    Accept interdependence

  • a. We ground ourselves in God’s presence.
  • b. We nurture an attitude of loving kindness toward all of God’s creation.
     

5.    Promote justice

  • a. We seek to understand the impact of social systems and structures.
  • b. We align our decisions and actions to work toward universal peace and justice.
     

6.    Embrace financial health as an expression of faith

  • a. We allow money to flow to and through our lives in ways that nourish us and our world.
  • b. We recognize that our capacity to give is defined by our heart, not our pocketbook.