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Chinese Culture and Christian Stewardship


As part of the Faith and Generosity in China Initiative, Dr. Scott Rodin, author of The Steward Leader, interviewed believers in China about how stewardship is perceived in Chinese culture.

One young Christian leader, Xiao Diheng, pointed out that the prevailing ethic in China is one of hard work. From Confucius to Deng Xiaoping, the message is that, if you want it, you need to work for it—and this is to be applauded.

Parents teach their children you should work hard and that’s how you get success. Confucius’ writings say work hard, you get the golden house, the beautiful wife, you will be an official, you will be in government. Government policy encourages people to develop, to start up companies, to cooperate to make money. This is allowed. That’s why all the people, they believe the only way you can be rich and be successful is from your hard working.

In contrast, the stewardship message of the Bible teaches that it ultimately does not belong to us. It’s not merely the result of our hard work, for it all comes from God. He is the owner.

Xiao observes, “Even for the Christians and for the church in China, they also preach that God gives you everything, but you still own it. So this is the totally new idea.”

Another stewardship struggle relates to the role of “face” in Chinese culture.

Li Ning, who became the first Christian in her family when she believed in college, notes:

In Chinese culture it’s hard to confront people when there’s a conflict. Because in our culture, we don’t embarrass people. We don’t say bad words in front of people’s faces. So this is still a hard thing and we see a lot of broken relationships in our culture because we try to be the owner of the face, the relationship, everything.

Once we realize that God is the owner of our reputation, Li says, then we are free to obey him in relationships, trusting him for the outcome.

I had a conflict with my boss. Especially because I’m a female and he’s the boss, the role for me to confront is really difficult. But when I figure out it has to be God’s way and He is the one in control, not me, I can do this even though I feel vulnerable. My boss is a brother, he’s a Christian. He’s so humble to listen to me, and we clarify everything…. When a relationship is broken, God reconciles people and it’s a miracle. It’s even more beautiful than before.

You can read the rest of the interviews here.

Regular postings in Chinese on what it means to be a godly steward in all areas of life—including selections from The Steward Leader—are available at The Good and Faithful Steward, on weibo (http://weibo.com/zxhaoguanjia) and We Chat (忠心好管家).

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the president of ChinaSource and the editor of the ChinaSource Quarterly. Prior to assuming his current position, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding US director of... View Full Bio