Minister’s Message: Becoming stewards of attention

Maybe stewardship is a good way to think about our attention?

After another night of harmless Netflix binging, my soul fell restless on the pillow. Something was deeply amiss.

The dawn’s light illuminated my trouble: The attention necessary for living according to my convictions and commitments was being compromised. As someone who endeavors to adhere to the two great commandments affirmed by Jesus — to love God and love others — I suddenly awoke to the realization that the heart of love is attention. And I was spilling too much of this precious resource on screen time and other matters of inconsequence.

I decided then that attention is a theological issue. How we attend, with what quality we attend, and the objects of our attention all reflect our belief about who God is and who he has created us to be.

If attention is the indicator of my truest devotion, what conclusions would be drawn by someone looking in on my life?

This question unsettles me. Undoubtedly, there is a discrepancy between who I want to be and who I am now. How, though, can I ground my attention in God?

In search of answers, I went back to the beginning, to Genesis, where God created humans and commissioned them to care for the world just as he cares for it. There it was! We were designed by God to be stewards.

Stewards are not owners or masters. They hold in trust what belongs to another. They are empowered with authority and held accountable for how they use that authority. In essence, they act as a representative of the one who has commissioned them. In this case, humans are created by God to faithfully represent him to the rest of creation. Those who do this well are deemed “faithful” and “good” stewards. Those who do not are called “foolish” and “wicked” stewards.

Maybe stewardship is a good way to think about our attention?

Consider what it would look like for us to represent God to the world in the ways we attend. For one, we might start to notice the people around us as people created in God’s image, not as means to our ends. We would also find our attention turned toward the kind of people God consistency concerns himself with: the outcast, poor and down-trodden. At the very least, representing God in our attention might call us, as C.S. Lewis so poignantly put it, not to think less of ourselves, but to think of ourselves less.

Stewarding attention makes powerful claims upon our lives far beyond what has been mentioned here. If God truly has made us to be stewards, then I am confronted by how often I attend as if I am the owner, doling out attention how and when and as I wish, with no accountability other than to myself.

While there is no stopping me living in this way, I do so at the cost of keeping those two great commandments I proclaim to live by. And that should make my soul restless.

Joshua Gorenflo and his wife, Kya, are ministers at Kenai Fellowship, Mile 8.5 on the Kenai Spur Highway. Worship is 11 a.m. on Sundays, posted live on Facebook.

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