As a young boy, my family attended a local church where they would annually have a “stewardship Sunday” – where stewardship meant how much money you would give to God for the coming year. It seems they missed the point. God has already given all that we have (not just money) and we are to manage it as good servants and stewards. Thus, the Master can legitimately ask us, “have you been faithful with what has been given to you?” What return do you have for the Lord?
The Right Master for Servants and Stewards
In 1 Corinthians 4:2 Paul states “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Why does he put this here? The context is important. The Corinthians were devoting themselves to certain men. But they, too, had confused things. They already had a Master. They were now seeking to devote themselves to specific men in the ministry when they had already devoted themselves to their Lord, Jesus Christ. Were Apollos, Cephas, or Paul their lords? No, we cannot boast in them as if they own us but we can boast in the Lord who does own us. There may well be spiritual fathers to which there may be faithful children (1 Cor. 4:14-17). The view, though, of a steward and child is different and in some ways the Corinthians were confusing the two. Yet, both are characterized by faithfulness. Paul then corrects the Corinthians so that they would view Paul and the others as servants and stewards.
But then Paul continues and notes that the One we boast in – the Master – gives us something to manage as stewards. The key is that both servants and stewards are expected to be faithful. Notice, then, that stewardship is more about what one is given than what one gives.
The Right Motivation – Faithfulness
So then, what is the believer to do concerning giving to the Master’s work? Well, the key seems to be the master’s expectations – what does He see as faithfulness? The various parables concerning servants and resources (Mt. 25:14-30; Lk. 12:42-48; 16:1-13; 19:11-27) give the sense that faithfulness involves furthering the master’s domain. So then, believers ought to be using all of their resources to further the Lord’s kingdom.
Before seeing how this might practically be done let’s look at how God views faithfulness. Consider the long portion in Numbers 5:5-31 about the law of jealousies. Doesn’t it seem somewhat strange on initial reading? To fully glean the context would require us to outline the book, but here we will just note that the Israelites had been delivered from Egyptian bondage and were now at Sinai. Having now received the law and tabernacle, they were no longer ignorant of God’s expectations. They had agreed that “all the Lord has said we will do” (Ex. 19:8). Now in preparation to continue their journey to the promised land, the law of jealousies is introduced.
With that context in mind God uses the law of jealousies to demonstrate the connection between Himself and Israel. Israel has agreed to serve and follow the Lord. The key is that Israel must remain faithful. So, the Lord provides this long section on the importance of a wife being faithful to her husband. There is a corresponding example brought out in Numbers 25:1-18. Many in Israel were unfaithful to Jehovah in fornicating with the Midianites. As a result, God’s wrath breaks out on Israel. Yet there is one who is jealous with God’s jealousy – Phinehas, an example of faithfulness to God.
These thoughts from the book of Numbers should give us a sense of God’s perspective on faithfulness. God expects faithful stewards to show devotion to the Master, to present to Him that which belongs to the Master, and to be fruitful for the Master.
So then, as stewards we are administrators (servants) of what God owns and has entrusted to us so that we can further His kingdom. We should look forward to giving an account of our stewardship.
The Right Map – Characteristics of Stewards
Servanthood is characterized by devotion (love of the Master and what is His) and stewardship (managing and using what the Master has given to us).
How are we to use what He has given us? How do we further His kingdom? We are of course limited to what He gives us. Our actions relate directly to how we view our relationship to Christ in our role as household stewards. Does Christ have the preeminence? Are our decisions based on how it furthers His glory? We are devoted to that which is important to us. So how important is the Lord’s work to us? His people? His workers? The local assembly testimony? If others were to look at how we used the Master’s resources individually, or collectively as a local assembly, what would they conclude?
First, a good servant is a filial steward (Num. 12:7; Acts 16:15; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2), devoted to the Master and the household of faith. They use their resources to support and build up the household. Thus, a significant investment is made in supporting the whole body of Christ as well as the local church.
Second, a good servant is a faithful steward (Mt. 24:25; Lk. 12:42). They use wisdom in utilizing resources and faithfully focus on the protection and maintenance of the Master’s family and resources. Resources are used wisely and tracked so that they will be able to give an account.
Third, a good servant is a fruitful steward (Mt. 25:21, 23; Lk. 16:10; 19:17). They are committed to finding ways to effectively and efficiently bring the greatest return for the Master from the resources that have been entrusted to them. They look forward to giving an account and will receive a blessing from the Master on completion of their earthly stewardship.
The Right Means – Stewards Found Faithful in Action
Are we looking forward to the day when we will account for the resources He has entrusted to us? Will our efforts as stewards stand the test of fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15)? May I exhort you to consider the importance of being filial, faithful, and fruitful servants.
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful – John Mohr