We want leaders who are stewards

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | September 19, 2019

“Stewardship.” Most of us, when we hear this word, immediately think “money.” But maybe we need to think again.

“Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!” Amos wrote those words in the eighth century B.C. Then, as now, some people were becoming rich at the expense of others. Diminishing the ephah meant shortchanging the customer, giving them less than they paid for, kind of like opening a box of cereal and finding that it’s mostly air or getting home from the store to find that the one pound can of tomatoes actually contains only 15 ounces. But these are really only inconveniences. More serious are instances where millions, and even billions of dollars, are sent to help the poor in Third World countries, only to somehow “disappear” before they ever get to the people they’re meant to help; or cases of food and vegetables left to rust and rot in trucks and warehouses. More serious is the discovery that hundreds of trailers meant to house people displaced by earthquakes and storms stand unused. “Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!”

Perhaps that’s why the compilers of the lectionary chose to pair this reading with the Letter to Timothy. “First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be offered … for kings and for all in authority.” The people to whom these words were written were living under Roman rule, subject to the effects of policies and decisions over which they had no control. They wanted only to “lead a quiet and tranquil life … in dignity.” They wanted leaders who would serve the best interests of the people, rather than their own. They wanted to be able to trust that the food they ate was untainted, the water clean. In other words, they wanted what we want; what people everywhere want and have every right to expect.

“Stewardship” — of the earth and of the fruits of the earth. What would the world look like if we really took that word seriously?

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.

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