In The Return of the King, Denethor, Steward of Gondor (the realm of men) says of himself to Gandalf, “Yet the Lord of Gondor is not to be made the tool of other men’s purposes, however worthy. And to him there is no purpose higher in the world as it now stands than the good of Gondor; and the rule of Gondor, my lord, is mine and no other man’s, unless the king should come again.”
To this Gandalf responds, “Unless the king should come again? Well, my lord Steward, it is your task to keep some kingdom still against that event, which few now look to see. In that task you shall have all the aid that you are pleased to ask for.
“But I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor nor any other, great or small. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?”
I suppose that it’s not completely unimaginable that I sometimes find inspiration in Gandalf's insight. I love this image: it is our job, the job of men, to rule, but it is our ultimate destiny to submit our rulership to the True King who is yet coming. Ultimately, our job is stewardship.
Even more, like Gandalf, our task is stewardship of “anything … that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower….” This includes stewardship of our world, our influence in that world, our fellow human beings, and of the planet that we now call home.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” ~Matthew 18:23
(Many thanks to Kriston Couchey for provoking this line of thought.)