In last week’s post, I looked at Denethor as an example of a poor steward in The Return of the King, and how Gandalf brought this state of affairs to his attention. He didn’t stop there, however, continuing instead with a description of his own actions, which we recognize implicitly as the way Gandalf thinks that Denethor should have responded:
But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward.
Gandalf demonstrates good stewardship of Middle Earth not in the way he treats the environment per se (although he does tend to be most friendly with the agrarian Hobbits and nature-loving elves and opposes the more industrial efforts of evil beings like Saruman and Sauron), but in the way he cares for the beings that inhabit it. He is friends with Hobbits, Elves, Men and Dwarves alike, and strives to help whichever race he is currently involved with make the best and wisest decisions. He protects whomever falls under his care and seeks to banish evil.
Last week I spoke of stewardship in the sense of caring for the environment. Often when stewardship is spoken of in church, it is in the context of making sure the congregation will be able to meet its budget for the upcoming year. But do we, like Gandalf, ever think of ourselves or our churches as stewards of people? I didn’t before I started working on this post. Gandalf’s example stands out to me as what the church ought to be, first and foremost.
“The earth is the Lord’s,” the Psalmist says, “and everything in it...and all who live in it.” Being good stewards means taking care of the house, including all the people who live there. It means being “fishers of men,” certainly, but also (and perhaps most importantly), it means loving our neighbors, seeking justice, showing mercy, protecting the weak and powerless, and helping the “least of these.”
I asked this question last week, and I ask it again now: We as the Church are stewards - keepers or guardians of this planet we call our home and all the people who live here. What will it take for us to really be true to that name?