On “Stewardship”

Yet another theory, and a very dangerous one, is often advanced among Christians as providing a sufficient justification of property rights in their present form, or something not widely different from it.  This is the doctrine of “stewardship.”  It is contended that great riches, so far from being regarded as the fruit of avarice, the seed of tyranny, and the means of luxury, ought to be looked upon as affording a unique opportunity for the exercise of benevolence and charity.  The argument is not generally stated so plainly, but in a confused sort of way it has been employed to add a welcomed sanction to the “deceitfulness of riches.”  It is necessary to observe that this comfortable theory contains not only a spiritual falsehood, but an economic fallacy, for such a “stewardship” is outside the ability of any individual to execute.  The ability to lay out money wisely is, like other human capacities, strictly limited; and luxury expenditure, in which form “benevolence” so often clothes itself, is normally a process so uneconomic as to be anti-social.  The administration of wealth is not a “stewardship,” it is a dictatorship; since riches involve a power over others, degrading alike to those who are possessed of it and to those who are its passive dependents. (165)

Maurice Reckitt | “The Moralization of Property” in The Return of Christendom

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