To be good stewards in God's Kingdom means that we are not to be possessed by our possessions, that we learn to live more simply and with a willingness to share with others. In the contemporary world, which makes increasing demands on the earth's finite resources, Friends are challenged to exercise the care and concern that can assure that future generations may inherit an earth on which they can live in hope and dignity.
The Earth is the Lord's
The Creator of the earth is the owner of it. He gave us being thereon, and our nature requires nourishment which is the produce of it. As he is kind and merciful, we as his creatures, while we live answerable to the design of our creation, we are so far entitled to a convenient subsistence that no man may justly deprive us of it. By the agreements and contracts of our fathers and predecessors, and by doings and proceedings of our own, some claim a much greater share of this world than others; and whilst those possessions are faithfully improved to the good of the whole, it consists with equity. But he who with a view to self-exaltation causeth some with their domestic animals to labour immoderately, and with the moneys arising to him therefrom employs others in the luxuries of life, acts contrary to the gracious design of him who is the owner of the earth; nor can any possessions, either acquired or derived from ancestors, justify such conduct.
John Woolman: "A plea for the poor," (written in 1763-4) in The journal and major essays, ed. Phillips P Moulton, 1971, pp. 239-40.
Be Not Cumbered With the Riches of This World
Neither be cumbered nor surfeited with the riches of this world, nor bound, nor straitened with them, nor married to them; but be free and loose from them, and be married to the Lord.
George Fox: "Epistle 161" (1658), in Works, vol. 7, 1831, p. 152.
Tenderness Toward All Creatures
[I] believe that where the love of God is verily perfected and the true spirit of government watchfully attended to, a tenderness toward all creatures made subject to us will be experienced, and a care felt in us that we do not lessen that sweetness of life in the animal creation which the great Creator intends for them under our government.
John Woolman: The journal and major essays, ed. Phillips P. Moulton, 1971, pp. 178-9 (entry for 2nd day, 6th month, 1772).
Distributing the Gifts of God
As Christians, all we possess are the gifts of God. Now in distributing it to others we act as his steward, and it becomes our station to act agreeable to that divine wisdom which he gracious gives to his servants. If the steward of a great family, from a selfish attachment to particulars, takes that with which he is entrusted and bestows it lavishly on some to the injury of others and to the damage of him who employs him, he disunites himself and becomes unworthy of that office.
John Woolman: "A plea for the poor," (written in 1763-4) in ibid., p. 249.
The Seeds of War
Oh, that we who declare against wars and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the Light and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding great estates! May we look upon our treasures and the furniture of our houses and our garments and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions or not.
Ibid., p. 255
A Peacemaking Way
We are called to a peacemaking lifestyle that follows Jesus' way in personal relationships and economic decisions.
A peacemaking lifestyle requires a positive, creative love and respect for the integrity of each person, especially in situations of conflict and confrontation. It requires us to take the way of the cross to absorb suffering rather than to inflict it, and to demonstrate the power of forgiving love.
An affluent lifestyle contributes to violence because it is based on waste, on competition, and on demanding more than a fair share of the world's resources. Let us undertake the examination of our personal and corporate stewardship of money and natural resources, reduce the level of consumption, and become more discerning in our investments.
Helen Fletcher: "A new call to peacemaking," Friends world news, Autumn 1979, p. 17
The Earth is Held in Trust
Together, the world's people have been granted stewardship over the Earth, to enjoy it briefly, then to surrender it to succeeding generations. The Earth is not a possession but a trust. Those dramatic photographs from the moon showed us all what is ours to care for a green and blue jewel shining in the blackness of space. What steward would risk turning such a gem into a radioactive cinder?
Friends World Committee for Consultation, Statement to United Nations Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament, June 12, 1978.
Simplifying Our Lives
Learning to live contentedly without high consumption goes against the grain of our culture, but is possible in the context of community. Incomes can be cut if every family does not have to have its own laundry facilities, tools, automobiles, house, etc.
Concern for the ecosystem adds to the need for developing a simple yet adequate life style. Simplifying our lives also means pruning our scatter of activities to focus energy and to provide time to be present to each other.
American Friends Service Committee: Taking charge, 1975, p. 23.