Often when we think of ways we can promote flourishing in our community, we think of things like providing food, job training, and after-school programs. We mentor kids and collect backpacks. All of these activities bring benefits to some extent or another.  However, they are all “downstream” interventions. They are trying to intervene in the naturally occurring realities that result from something that isn’t working upstream.

One of the things that are frequently not working “upstream” are things related to a person’s job. For example, if a person was making enough money at their job they could provide food for their family through their income (eliminating the need for food shelves and backpack drives). If companies offered flex time for working parents, we may need less after-school intervention. If companies thought creatively about their training process, they could equip people for many of the jobs they are hiring people for without requiring a college degree which is often difficult to attain if you grow up in many environments. The possibilities are limitless depending on the vocation.

Stewarding Our Vocation 

It’s easy to dismiss these kinds of ideas because they go against the tide of how things naturally work in our context.  However, as we know God and live as the stewards of His resources, I think we are compelled to think about how we can steward our vocation, influence, and resources in ways that promote flourishing to all of those within the reach of our influence – in our work and out into our local communities.

There are several examples in the Old Testament of economic systems (like the gleaning laws and the year of jubilee) that are set up in order to create a safety net for those who are vulnerable and on the margins. There are also several examples of influential leaders like Boaz, Job, and Josiah who were known to steward their wealth and position in order to promote justice and flourishing for those who are vulnerable.

On more than one occasion God equates living this way as being evidence that someone knows him.  For example, in Jeremiah 22:13-16 God contrasts the behavior of Jehoiakim and Josiah.

 “And the Lord says, ‘What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim, who builds his palace with forced labor. He builds injustice into its walls, for he makes his neighbors work for nothing. He does not pay them for their labor. He says, ‘I will build a magnificent palace with huge rooms and many windows. I will panel it throughout with fragrant cedar and paint it a lovely red.’ But a beautiful cedar place does not make a great king!  Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all of his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me?” says the Lord. 

As we continue to know God and as we continue to know and understand our communities, my hope is that we will all continue to think about how we will use our own influence and leadership for the good of those under our care. Also, we will shepherd others towards a more robust way of stewarding their influence to promote flourishing for their employees and their communities.