“Stewardship” Is Not What You Think
Imagine you are a senior faculty member at a well–known graduate school of Christian theology and ministry. One day, in a curriculum planning meeting, you and several of your colleagues are discussing the question: “What is the central theme of the Bible?” Several answers are offered—the Kingdom of God, redemption, reconciliation, unconditional love, and more. The others turn to you: What would you say?
While all those suggested themes are worthy of consideration, there is another idea that rarely is considered: stewardship.
I know—your first thought might be, You’re suggesting that tithing might be the central theme of the Bible? No, I am not. But the fact that tithing, or financial management, is the first idea that comes to mind when we hear “stewardship” indicates just how narrow our view is. In fact, stewardship is much bigger than how we manage the money God has entrusted to us. Stewardship is such a large, overarching idea in Scripture that it could easily be a candidate for the Bible’s central theme—or at least one of the central themes.
First, let’s consider stewardship by defining steward. You might remember that airline flight attendants used to be all female, and they were called “stewardesses.” Why? Because they were the airline’s representatives to the passengers on the plane. They had a commission from the airline: Take care of the passengers; manage the cabin; look after everything the way we (the owners) would if we were in your place.
A steward is a manager, an overseer, a representative with responsibilities.
A steward is a manager, an overseer, a representative with responsibilities. A steward sets their desires aside to carry out the wishes of the boss/master/owner/lord. And we see that idea throughout Scripture.
Stewards From the Bible
- In Genesis, Adam and Eve were created in God’s image and set upon earth to have dominion (stewardship) over all creation (1:27–28). They were to represent God throughout creation, reflecting God’s will into creation and reflecting the glory of creation back to God.
- Joseph was made the steward over the household and affairs of an Egyptian official named Potiphar (Genesis 39:1–6). Potiphar entrusted everything to Joseph. All Potiphar did was show up for his meals, and Joseph handled everything else in a manner that would please his master (verse 6).
- During His three years of ministry on earth, Jesus was a servant–steward of God’s commission to redeem and reconcile humanity. Jesus set aside all His own desires (Philippians 2:5–8) and focused exclusively on the Father’s will (John 4:34; 5:19, 30; 6:38; 7:28–29).
- Paul was made a steward of the Gospel and the grace of God to the non–Jewish world (Acts 22:21; 1 Corinthians 4:1; Ephesians 3:1–9).
- Church leaders are to be a “steward of God” to care for the souls in the churches they lead (Titus 1:7).
Do you remember the campaign among Christian youth in the 1990s where they wore bracelets inscribed with WWJD? Those letters stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” That is the central question the steward of God always asks. Regardless of the situation, a steward sets aside their own preferences and plans and says, “Lord, I’m here to do Your will. What would You have me do in this situation?”
More Than Money
And not just in financial situations. We are to be stewards of our moral and ethical life, our health, and our time and talent, as well as our treasure. We’re also to be stewards of our relationships—all of them: family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers. We are to do for others whatever God would do for them if He were in our place. We are in those relationships for His glory. Paul wrote that only one thing is required of stewards—faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2). God is pleased with faithful stewards (Matthew 25:14–30).
God owns us and has entrusted to us all we are and have (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). As stewards, our mission is to manage our life in a way that is well–pleasing to Him. As we are faithful in that mission, God continues to entrust more and more of life to us.
How does your life measure up as a steward of God?
How does your life measure up as a steward of God? Is everything you are and possess being used for the Master? Are you living as the Lord Himself would live in your place? Consider what your life would be like if you moved your stewardship from good to great.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 edition of Turning Points devotional magazine.
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