When the subject of stewards or stewardship is raised it is not uncommon for people to say, "What in the world is that? I never heard of it!" Others might respond, "You know, I took an international flight on one of those European airlines and they called the male flight attendants "stewards" and the female attendants "stewardesses"

How shocking to find out that stewardship is the concept by which God determines our commitment to Him; the degree of our faithfulness (or unfaithfulness); the effectiveness with which we use the resources He has entrusted to us; the degree to which we are in harmony with His will for our lives; and the extent of our eternal reward. That’s pretty heavy stuff.

Any Christian who fails to acquire a clear understanding of stewardship will only have a murky notion of what the Christian life is all about and will fail miserably in reaching their potential in life and eternity.

What Is A Steward?

The root meaning of steward in the Bible is "one to whose care is committed the management of the household." By New Testament times it had become enlarged to mean anyone who supervised that which belonged to another.

Bible Examples of Stewardship

     Every person in the Bible was an example of stewardship. Some were good examples. Some were warnings. Eliezer, a servant of the patriarch Abraham, was clearly the steward or manager of Abraham’s household. Previous to the birth of Isaac we find Abraham saying to God, "…since I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Genesis 15:2. Later, after Isaac had become of marrying age we find this statement, "And Abraham said to the oldest servant of his house, who ruled over all that he had…" Genesis 24:2. At this point Eliezer was an aged man but he had proven himself to be so faithful and efficient that he was in charge of everything Abraham owned. He was now being entrusted to go to Abraham’s relatives in the land of Haran to get a wife for his son, Isaac.

     Joseph is the most inspiring example of a good and faithful steward in the Old Testament. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he was bought off the auction block by Potiphar, a high official of Pharaoh in the Egyptian government. The good qualities of Joseph enabled him to rise from the lowest household slave to the steward in charge of everything Potiphar owned. Potiphar’s wife tempted him and lied about him and he wound up in prison. If this had been the end of the story we could conclude that it does not pay to be a good and faithful steward…at least in this world. But Joseph continued to be a good and faithful steward. Before long he was virtually in charge of everything going on in the prison. Then suddenly, in one day, he was lifted out of prison and placed in charge of the whole nation of Egypt. The degree of his authority was emphasized by Pharaoh's statement, "No man shall lift up his foot or put it down without your permission." A study of Joseph reveals he had become one of the most godly men in the Old Testament and, as a result, became one of the most faithful stewards. For that he was recompensed greatly on earth. His reward shall also surely be great in heaven.

      Some other outstanding examples of good stewardship in the Old Testament would be Moses, Job, David, and Daniel.

     In the New Testament we have the eleven apostles who continued faithfully as good stewards and Judas who was put out of his stewardship because he was unfaithful. Other good examples we be:

     Joseph of Arimathaea who supplied spices to embalm the body of Jesus and his own hand-carved grave to bury Him.

     Barnabas, who was helping others every time we read about him.

     Dorcas was "abounding with deeds of kindness and charity, which she continually did."

     Lydia, a wealthy business woman opened her home for the first church in Europe to meet.

     Aquila and Priscilla, wealthy tent-makers, allowed the apostle Paul to support himself in their business and opened their home to host a church wherever they lived.

Who Is Supposed To Be A Good Steward

     Most of us would likely respond very quickly, "Ministers of the gospel!" That is assuredly true. The apostle Paul wrote, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." 1st Corinthians 4:1,2. Paul received "the mysteries of God" by direct revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11,12). So did the original apostles and the prophets of the apostolic age. If they had not been trustworthy in communicating the revelation they received the world would have continued to be enveloped in spiritual darkness. All the rest of the ministers of God receive "the mysteries of God" by the Holy Spirit giving them understanding of what God revealed. To the extent ministers of God are not faithful in communicating the "mysteries of God" those who are dependent on them are left in darkness. What lies in the balance is life and eternity. The responsibility of ministers of the gospel to be good stewards is exceedingly great.

     But the rest of us shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief too quickly that we have been exempted. Jesus gave two powerful illustrations emphasizing that all believers are required to exercise good stewardship. In the parable of the talents He taught that the servant who receives one talent is just as responsible for using it well as the servants who receive two or five talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In the parable of the pounds (or 100 days wages) Jesus taught that all servants are responsible and accountable for wise and effective use of all that is placed in their care (Luke 19:12-26)

     Peter states very plainly, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." 1st Peter 4:10. Although most professing Christians are exceedingly foggy about what their spiritual gift is, the scriptures are very clear that when the Holy Spirit gives spiritual birth to a new believer He also bestows one or more spiritual gifts.  (See also Romans 12:6; 1st Corinthians 12:7-11 and Ephesians 4:7). In order to be a good steward every believer must identify their spiritual gift(s) along with all other items under their control and commit to being a good and faithful steward in each area.

What’s Involved In Being A Good Steward

A good steward recognizes the ownership of God.

     In a land where we think in terms of my brains, my talent, my abilities, my looks, my efforts, my time and my possessions, it can be very difficult to accept the idea that God is the true owner and source of all these things. God is the owner of all things by virtue of creation. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" Genesis 1:1. "The earth is the LORD’S, and all that it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it." Psalms 24:1. God remains the owner of all that is placed under our authority for He is the source of it all. "Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow." James 1:17.
A good steward recognizes that spiritual things are more important than temporal things.

     Jesus gave us this instruction: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:19-21. The key word is "treasure". Nowhere does God forbid us to provide for our earthly needs for the present or for times of emergency or for our senior years. Indeed, we are admonished to do so (Proverbs 6:6; 1st Timothy 5:8). Jesus is speaking of what we value of greatest importance to us. A good steward will place greater value on the spiritual treasure he or she is acquiring in heaven than on the material treasures of earth.

A good steward seeks to please and honor God with all that is under their control.

     The desire of our fleshly nature and the influence of the world system in which we live is to use all that is under our control as we please to satisfy our desires. Yet, in this regard Jesus taught "But seek first (make the highest priority) the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things (earthly needs) shall be added to you." Matthew 6:33 (See also 1st Corinthians 10:31

A good steward sees his or her stewardship as an act of love.

     In 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9 Paul is exhorting the Christians to fulfill their stewardship commitment to give an offering to relieve suffering Jewish Christians. One of the reasons he gave for doing so was "to prove the sincerity of your love." Chapter 8:8. It is easy to sing, "Oh, how I love Jesus" and affirm "I love God’s people and I love lost souls." However, most of us have heard the cliché, "talk is cheap." The only way we can prove that we truly love is by being good stewards of our time, spiritual gifts, and finances. Remember the story of the good Samaritan. In verse 9, Paul reminded the Corinthian church that Jesus proved His love for us by coming and dying for our sins.

 A good steward sees his or her stewardship as an act of worship.

     As Paul comes to the close of the chapters on the good stewardship of grace giving he points that there is a direct connection between Christ’s stewardship to us resulting in our stewardship to others. "You are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God".  2nd Corinthians  9:11. Christ had been a faithful steward to Paul. Paul had been a faithful steward to the Corinthians and when the Corinthians fulfilled faithful stewardship to the suffering Jews it would result in thanksgiving to God by all. Paul’s last words on the subject were words of worship, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift." (9:15)

When we embrace and practice the above five principles of being a good steward we will not even have to be reminded, ". . .moreover, it is required of steward that one be found trustworthy."

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted


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