An Attitude of Stewardship

My essay on how an attitude of stewardship toward our possessions can benefit Christians in times of loss has been published in The Banner.

Panic surged through Wall Street in October of 1929. On October 24, stock prices plunged briefly before several large banks intervened and the market rallied. But things were about to get much worse. On Black Monday, October 28, stock prices fell by more than 10 percent. The next day it happened again. Prices would continue falling for the next three years. When they reached their nadir in July of 1932, prices were down 90 percent, and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression.

In the face of such tremendous financial losses, the kind of desperation felt by some financiers was understandable. But it is not inevitable.

The effects of loss depends on our attitude toward our circumstances. Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, “No man is crushed by misfortune unless he has first been deceived by prosperity.”

Studies by economists and psychologists provide support for Seneca’s observation. Our satisfaction with our circumstances depends on the comparisons we make. We compare our circumstances to our expectations, and we hate losing things we were expecting to have. That aversion to loss influences all sorts of decisions, including decisions about investments, insurance, and how long to work. It may even influence the performance of professional athletes, with golfers playing better when they need to save par than when they have the chance to beat it.

But loss cannot be avoided. Cars rust, fabrics fray, and bodies fail. All who are born must die, and each of us leaves this world with empty hands.

The Bible describes an attitude toward loss that can protect us from the disappointment that accompanies it. Our expectations about the future often reflect our current circumstances, but, as Seneca knew, they also reflect the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

Read the whole piece.