That today's Christians have lost their sense of stewardship is a grave matter of concern. Stewardship is, after all, one of our innate responsibilities as Christians. Psalm 24:1 tells us that God owns everything: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof” (KJV). But that is not to say that we do not have a role in managing and caring for everything that He owns. Read on to discover the true meaning of stewardship and how it can help us to better fulfill our duties as Christians.
Where do we find stewardship in the Bible?
The word ‘steward’ means ‘manager of a household.’ To be a good steward, one has to be a good manager of God’s household.
Stewardship is an important notion for Christians. Indeed, the Bible often references stewardship, confirming its central place in Christians’ lives. Considering this importance, it is of grave concern that Christians may be losing their sense of good stewardship. It is not, after all, a term used only in fundraising and volunteering.
Some important stewardship verses include:
- ‘Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.’ (NIV, Corinthians 4:2)
- ‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.’ (NIV, Peter 4:10)
- ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ (NIV, Timothy 5:8)
But it is not only in verses that we find great examples of stewardship. Joseph’s story, in particular, stands out as one about the true virtues of being a steward of God’s resources. Joseph remained a good steward even through troubles with his siblings, Potiphar's wife, and his time in prison. In the end, he made it to the top of Egyptian society as an advisor to the Pharaoh. Joseph's story alone shows us how powerful a virtue stewardship can be, and how great the rewards are that it may entail.
What are the biblical meanings of stewardship?
At its core, stewardship involves four guiding principles. These principles are critical to ensuring good stewardship in our everyday lives. The principles are ownership, responsibility, accountability, and reward. Together, these principles tell us, as servants of God, that we are in a position of trust. If we fulfil that trust, we will receive a reward.
Stewardship as Ownership
Adam was the first steward of God’s household. Since the time of Adam, we have all continued the work as administrators of God’s resources. In this, we must recognize that everything we have and everything we experience belongs to God. As we belong to God, everything that we know belongs to God. While we may feel that it our own hands that have created wealth, it is God who created those hands in the first place:
- ‘But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.’ (NIV, Deuteronomy, 8:18)
Stewardship as Responsibility
In knowing that God owns everything, we know that everything that we take in God’s name must be cared for in His interests. As stewards of God’s household, we must know how to develop and sustain God’s resources according to His wishes. In that, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves about God’s will and His work.
Stewardship as Accountability
No steward can be responsible for the belongings of God if he or she is not able to account for how they managed the household. There will come a time when God calls us to account for our decisions at the Gates of Heaven, and we must be able to explain how we met the demands of the trust He placed in us. Good stewards are confident and authentic in their description of their work as managers of God’s resources.
Stewardship as Reward
Paul encouraged us:
- ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ (NIV, Colossians 3:23-24)
There is an immeasurable reward in faithful and honest stewardship to the Lord. Though we do not work for that reward, we take joy in knowing that God may grace us with an inheritance should we deliver excellent service to Him. Our rewards may be many and various, and when we receive them it will be an honor for eternity.
How can we be better stewards of God's resources in our day-to-day lives?
Stewardship is a broad undertaking requiring daily action from Christ’s followers. It is not a one-off action or mission; it is a regular commitment that we undertake in our servitude.
For some, like Professor Paul Stevens, stewardship is another way of talking about ministry. Stevens believes we are all ministers, and that in our daily lives we have opportunities for ministry.
How, though, may we incorporate the principles of stewardship into our daily lives?
- Be mindful of the gifts God has given. We can pause often to reflect upon the blessing of stewardship, and we can try to be conscious of all the good that comes from selfless service. God blessed us by giving us the abilities to serve. It is good stewardship to recognize the privilege of being able to do God’s work.
- Give for the sake of giving. Today, we focus too much on the details of economic value and return-on-investment. In doing so, we have forgotten the real value of giving: giving itself. We may try to gift to others without desiring any particular outcome. In doing so, we may find there is reward whatever that outcome may be.
- Consider the needs of those who cannot speak for themselves. Whether human or animal, we should be aware of the needs of those who cannot request God’s resources themselves. His household is for all creatures great and small. That means we must be attentive to all needs without discrimination of any kind.
- Trust in God no matter the hardship you face. Stewards of God’s resources exist among God’s resources, and in that sense, we are never far from His help. Whatever the difficulty faced, take comfort knowing that God is generous. He will provide. Jesus faced the ultimate hardship and never wavered as God’s devout steward. We must do the same.
These actions are achievable for all and effective in nurturing good stewardship.
Great and faithful stewards exist in us all, even if some of us have lost our way. Reminded of what it means to be a good steward, we must now, as Corinthians 4:2 demands, prove faithful to the trust placed in us. If stewardship is calling you as it has so many of God’s servants, take these lessons and go forth with the ambition and grace to do the work of God in your daily life.