LCMS Stewardship Feature Story

Stewardship Hedgehogs

LCMS Stewardship ministry features may be reprinted with acknowledgment given to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

A recent re-read of Jim Collins’ classic work Good to Great re-introduced me to a phrase that I had not heard in a long time. Collins quoted Isaiah Berlin’s use of an ancient Greek aphorism, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

This month’s stewardship entry is not going to be about zoology. Rather, it will be about the distinction between two vastly different but critical ways to view both the task of steward leadership and, even more importantly, stewardship in general.

Stewardship foxes

The distinction between the fox and the hedgehog is summarized by psychologist Phil Tetlock who contrasts them this way: “Foxes have different strategies for different problems. They are comfortable with nuance; they can live with contradictions. Hedgehogs, on the other hand, focus on the big picture. They reduce every problem to one organizing principle.”[1]

Many steward leaders and pastors view stewardship as a nuanced, complex process. Into the calculus of preaching and teaching of stewardship there is added the nuance of the practical need to fund ministry. After all, there are budgets to balance and institutions to sustain. There are also the fears of the reaction of the hearer when the Spirit uses the Word of Law to prick the conscience of the less than faithful steward. No one rejoices when the Word of God is taught in a way that shows that, as stewards, we are not faithful in that calling (1 Cor. 4:1–2). Combine this with many steward leaders having a truncated formation in what stewardship really is, and we can see why these stewardship foxes have difficulty getting the people under their care to the point where they need to be.

Stewardship hedgehogs

This is a call for the steward leader to embrace the identity of a stewardship hedgehog. This is a call to focus doggedly on a much bigger picture approach to the formation of stewards in the local congregation.

The one, big picture understanding of the hedgehog steward is this: In Genesis 1:26–28 the Lord God created human beings to be stewards of His image in creation, and in a priestly way (Gen. 2:15) reflecting His creative care and concern over creation. We botched it in sin, claiming that we were owners, rather than stewards. In the process of failing to be the priests of the garden, the steward-humans became idolaters.

We bore that idolatrous distinction until the Second Adam came. Jesus was for the failed stewards what they could never be. The image of the invisible God, Jesus, became the perfect steward. Then once we were reconciled, He did the unthinkable: He entrusted us with the stewardship of the greatest treasure, the Gospel. This Good News reconciles us to God and commits to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Stewarding the one thing needful

The hedgehog steward sees the stewardship of the Gospel as not only the primary task of the steward, but the sole task. All that we are and have is to be deployed in the service of the stewardship of this treasure. Rather than wasting time on percentages, charts, encouraging service, and so many other things, the stewardship hedgehog points those entrusted to their care to the one thing needful for the steward and the neighbor alike: the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Hedgehog stewards see only the stewardship of the Gospel. This does not in any way denigrate the more nuanced elements of financial stewardship, time stewardship, service and the like. But they are all servant to the one central, essential idea of the Gospel. The financial steward is faithful for the sake of the Gospel. The service of the steward is for the sake of the Gospel. The time used by the steward is employed for the sake of the Gospel.

When the steward leader teaches stewardship like a hedgehog, he or she begins to overcome the objections of the idolaters who object to being pricked by the Law for their ongoing unfaithful stewardship. If we center all our teaching of stewardship on our identity as stewards of the most precious treasure, the Gospel, and our and our neighbors’ need for it, the Holy Spirit leads us to be faithful. There will always be a place for the Law calling us to repentance and faithful stewardship. But the hedgehog steward leader will teach in such a way that the steward sees not a nuanced, manipulated burden, but true reconciled freedom in Jesus Christ!

Dear steward leader, embrace your role as a stewardship hedgehog. Connect all you teach and all whom you lead to the one central big purpose for stewardship: the Gospel!

[1] Cited from an entry in The Hidden Brain written by Jennifer Schmidt from July 8, 2019.

LCMS Stewardship ministry features may be reprinted with acknowledgment given to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

1 thought on “Stewardship Hedgehogs”

  1. Dr. Meador,
    “…embrace your role as a stewardship hedgehog. Connect all you teach and all whom you lead to the one central big purpose for stewardship: the Gospel!”

    I am new at stewardship leading. My exposure to stewardship has been very traditionally linked to budgeting. And now I’m being asked to lead us to the “big purpose”.

    Could you provide me with a ‘concrete example’ or ‘what does it look like’ if I were to work towards one central big purpose for stewardship: the Gospel! I think I understand philosophically, but what would a real life action look like?


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