Monday, November 11, 2013

Taking Care of Business

If you have never been a substitute teacher, then you don't know what you have been missing in life.  I was a school teacher for 16 years and had a few times that I substituted when I was in transition between jobs.  Either I had changed from one school to another and the timing of the change was not exact resulting in my being a sub for a while or there was some other reason. I did not sub many times but did it enough to know that it is a very challenging role to play.  Substitute teachers are faced with being the new person in a class of people who all know each other.  You do not know the names of any of the students (and often they organize and try to trick you into calling them something besides their real names) and you only have a set of written instructions to follow that are supposed to be keyed to a textbook or a pile of papers that the teacher left on his/her desk.

When I had finished my student teaching in college, I substituted in the same school for a few days where I had done my student teaching.  This was near the end of the school year so the students were weary of the routine and a bit restless.  The teacher had left instructions for the students to copy words and definitions out of the dictionaries in the room for a writing lesson.  When I saw the instructions, I thought, "How much more boring could an assignment be."  I actually hated to tell the students what they had to do for the assignment.  I felt sorry for them to have to do that mindless task (we called it "busy work" in the teaching profession) but I gave them the assignment and watched them at work, copying one by one the words and definitions from the dictionaries in the room.  As I recall, they stayed busy or asleep throughout the class period and I was also one who had trouble staying awake.  

Substitute teachers are people who try to fulfill the role of the regular teacher for a short period of time while the regular teacher is ill or gone to a workshop.  They cannot be that regular teacher because they do not have the status or authority of the regular teacher.  They can only try to use their talents and wits and intelligence to get the students in their care to fulfill the tasks to which they are assigned.  They are "stand-ins" for the one in charge and try their best to make it all work out.

Humans are like that substitute teacher when it comes to be good stewards of the earth.  The earth does not belong to humans.  It has only been loaned to them for the time period they are on the earth.  They are charged with caring for it and keeping it healthy and alive, keeping it clean, and making the best use of the resources that are provided on it.  Humans answer to the one who is in charge, the God who created it and endowed it with its resources.  Being a good steward of the earth means that humans attempt to care for it as they think that God would care for it.  Perhaps they may ask themselves the question, "What would God do in order to make the earth a wonderful place on which to live?"

Stewardship is often misinterpreted as being solely about money and giving money to organizations, such as churches (since many of them have annual Stewardship Campaigns that result in financial pledges to support the church).  Giving money to an organization is only one aspect of stewardship.  Being a responsible steward means that we use whatever we may possess (time, talent, treasure) in order to make the world a better place.  We in the church use our church as the organization through which we try to accomplish our goal of making the world a better place.  The end goal, though, is that once we have given all we can give, then we can see that what we have done has made a difference.

Being a good steward begins as we look at our lives as caretakers of the earth and of the resources of the earth with which we are blessed.  When we see ourselves as caretakers instead of owners of what we have, then we will begin to have a change in the way we look at things and we will give thanks for being allowed to have this short life on earth in which we may attempt to make things better than when we first began our journey of life.

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