K. V. Varghese
In Jesus' time most house-holds had stewards and servants. Servants took care of the physical needs of the members of the household. Many a time they were slaves. The position of stewards was different. Generally, they were in charge of the master's housekeeping, his finances, his servants and even his children. So, the steward had great responsibility and enjoyed some freedom. They were the house managers, which is the meaning of the word 'steward.'
A steward's position of honour comes after many years of proving faithfulness, reliability and honesty. The slightest flaw could take him down. The story of Joseph in the house of Potiphar illustrates the Biblical concept of stewardship. Potiphar had entrusted the entire household to him. But false accusations by his wife led Joseph to prison without even a probe into the matter. The steward did not own anything, even their own lives.
In the Old and New Testaments, stewards denote the management role God has assigned to believers. As trustees of God, we Christians have to act in responsible freedom-free to make decisions, yet accountable for those decisions. Every steward must be faithful in all matters. Joseph was a very faithful steward, both in Potiphar's house and in prison. So we read, "The Lord was with him. He showed him kindness and granted him favour wherever he was placed."
Because Christians are God's stewards, they must realise that everything they ever give belongs to God already. Everything that we have and everything that we are is really God's. That is why we pray, "All that is created is Yours and everything that we can offer already belongs to You."
As stewards, each of us has a specific job. "As everyone has received the gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1Pet.4:10). Hospitality, loving one another, caring for the sick and suffering, serving the needy, showing kindness, preaching the good news, etc., are all things we are to do faithfully as stewards every day. Each of us has been given a specific grace to perform specific jobs for God. It is called the multifaceted grace of God. Not only has God entrusted each of us with a job to do, but He has also provided us with necessary abilities and talents. So, in order to do the job, each must be a good steward of the abilities God has given us. Christians are stewards of the Gospel. The Gospel is a priceless thing committed to us to care for. This is the good news about Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus reconciled us to Himself, but He has committed to each of us the word of reconciliation. If the world does not hear about it from Christians, they won't hear it at all. God trusts us to spread the Gospel throughout the world. It is our responsibility as His stewards. God grants us the gift of salvation by His grace, not because we earned it. Along with the great salvation came the responsibility to share it with others.
What we do as stewards is of great consequences to God. He watches to see how faithful we are as His stewards, how we spend the money entrusted to us, how we use His time, how we are useful to others, how we share and serve, and so on. As dedicated Christians, you are to be a good steward of your employer's time, money and material. You are not a good steward, if you waste time when you should be working productively.
There are certain areas in which God is asking you to be a good steward, and if you are not using it for its intended purpose, you are not a good steward. Peter says, "As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1Pet.4:10). Paul says, "This is how one should regard us as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they are found trustworthy" (1Cor.4:1-2). No one will trust a steward who squanders or hoards the valuables placed in his care. God would rather entrust His riches to a remarkably faithful person than to a talented person. So, if a steward finds himself failing or falling short in faithfulness to his ministry, family, job, or money, he must repent. He must begin to be dependable, consistent and faithful in every area of his life.
Of course, that means being in church on time for every service. It means doing all that is required of him in the ministry, whatever that may be. It means praying and preaching the Word of God regularly. It means that the leaders of the church-bishops, priests, evangelists, members of the church committees and others-who are entrusted with the administration of the church, realise that they are there by the grace of God and that they are entrusted with the care of the people of God. They are responsible to watch over the souls of the people and their spiritual growth, and are accountable to God. That is why "a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God" (Tit.1:7).
A Day Of Reckoning
Every Christian must know there is a day of reckoning. As Christians, we have been given great liberty. We enjoy God's mercy and grace. But there is a day of reckoning. God will ask us what we have done with the things He has given us. We are accountable for everything God has given in His mercy. Jesus said, "Be ye therefore ready also for the Son of man cometh at an hour when you think not" (Lk.12:40).
A good Christian steward is accountable to God and therefore to men who have been placed in authority by God. They watch for our faithfulness in ministries, our families, our jobs and everything that is entrusted to us, small or great. If one does well, then when it is time for an accounting-in this life or in the final judgement-he will be entrusted with more and he will be used to do greater and more important things for God. On the other hand, if he is found wanting, what responsibilities he has will be taken away (Matt.25:14-30).
God does not base His rewards on how much one has, but on what he does with it. Those who do well will be privileged to hear Him say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant," instead of being called wicked and shameful one. Whatever God has entrusted to us, we should see them as great opportunities to exercise our stewardship. We should be faithful in the way we administer them as we will be held accountable for our actions.
Lastly, as true Christian stewards we must be blameless; we must not be arrogant, quick-tempered, drunkards, violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, lovers of goodness, upright, holy and self-controlled. I exhort every Christian to examine and find out whether he/she is a true Christian steward with Christ in him/her or merely a Christian with Christ outside.
The hallmark of Christian stewardship is obedience to our Master Jesus Christ, and keeping His Words.