THE TEST OF STEWARDSHIP
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
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
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
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
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
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
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted
Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.