In the category of Christian doctrines that of Christian Stewardship is not the most difficult to apprehend mentally. In no way does it require mental exertion to understand its fundamental principles. Neither does it require a genius to comprehend its practical significance and exercise. However, simple though this doctrine may be, I cannot think of another doctrine which is wider in scope and involves a greater portion of our Christian life.
Christian stewardship is so wide in scope that it completely covers our entire relation with respect to God, to man, to the world, to time and to eternity and to our very selves. It is the mainspring of our whole life. When, therefore, the sense of stewardship is lacking the possible good which man can do is nil, for its absence makes us self-willed, self-indulgent, self-asserting, God-forgetting. When, on the other hand, its sense is present and we feel our responsibility to it our entire life becomes God-centered.
Stewardship is the Christian’s world and life view in a nutshell. It answers all questions with respect to government capital and labor, Church and the world, home-life and that in public, property and charity, and many other relative questions. For an example, the very specter of Communism troubling every nation of the world to-day finds its root and development in the denial of stewardship. The struggle of capital and labor is caused by the rich and poor alike, both denying that they are stewards. Thus, in the life of the Church, the much debated question of New Testament tithing, as well as the ever troublesome question of good works and their merits are solved by the correct conception of stewardship. In like manner we could go on, naming the one problem after the other, all finding their solution in man being a steward.
The word “steward” is very indicative of what is implied by its concept. The word is derived from the Anglo-Saxon, “stigweard”, composed of two words: “stig”, meaning, house, hall or sty; and “weard” meaning: ward or guard. Hence a steward is one who has been placed over a house with the very purpose of keeping and guarding it. This, too, is the exact meaning of both, the Hebrew and Greek words, employed by Scripture, denoting stewardship. Literally the words could be translated: “house-managers”. Stewardship is, therefore, the management of another’s business, property or other affairs.
In the study of God’s Word we find that Scripture continually emphasizes that man is God’s steward. We find this idea in many parables of Jesus, such as of: The Pounds, The Talents, The Unjust Steward and The Unprofitable Servants, Thus Peter, too, reminds the Christians that they must be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God”.
Since our article deals with Christian Stewardship we must naturally view this question solely and only from the view point of the Christian and his specific (calling as such. But in passing let it be said that not only the believer, but the unbeliever as well, is divinely called and charged to be God’s steward. Regardless of man being righteous or wicked, reprobate or elect his calling is that of steward.
True stewardship always presupposes that there is a lord who entrusts in the hands of one of his servants his business, with the injunction that said servant must manage the same to the profit of his lord. The same holds true when we speak of man being a steward of God. God is the Lord who has entrusted into the hands of man the government, the management of God’s own house to the glory of God Himself. This house of God is the entire world with all that it contains,. Since stewardship emphasizes that the entire business or house belongs to the lord, so too, with respect to man’s stewardship in relation to God, everything in God’s house belongs positively to God alone. In the whole world there is nothing that man can claim as his own. The whole realm of nature and all that it produces is God’s. This, too, is true of man himself. All that man is and can produce belongs to God. Man with his body, time and talents, as well as his food and raiment are the sole property of God the Lord.
How could this be different? Did not God will and give to every creature, great and small, a place and purpose in His divine plan of all things. Were they not all brought forth by the Word of God “Who calls the things that are not as if they were?” Is not man himself the product of God’s own making, curiously wrought in the image of the Creator who is blessed forever? And is not every creature upheld by the power of God’s providence so that thereby they continue to exist? But by confessing all this, all has not been said! To this Scripture adds: “and unto Him are all things”. Every creature must perform His will, every tongue must sing His praise, for the purpose of all things is the eternal praise and glory of God Who is most blessed forever.
In the midst of this glorious creation God placed man as king, as steward. God bestows on man the task of utilizing all things to the glory of God. For this reason God had endued man with greater gifts than any other earthly creature, creating him in the very image of God himself that man might be the keystone in that divinely wrought arch which unites all creation with its Creator. As such man became the ward, the keeper, the house-manager of God’s earthly creation.
Due to sin man did not abide in this glorious state wherein God had created him. Through the corruption and depravity of man he becomes a slave of the devil; and the execution of the stewardship becomes impossible. Fallen man can only serve sin, hate God and use all that which is of God to despise and reject the glorious Creator. Spiritually man becomes a Communist, shrieking in the face of God, who owns all things, “Property is theft”. Making God a thief and trying to tear all things from the hands of God man divides God’s entire creation among his fellow rebels. Among fallen man there is no room for stewardship, and therefore, try as the world may, all their treaties of peace, governing boundaries and resources, will only result in more and greater wars. Man who robs God and divides the spoils among his fellow rebels shall never find peace.
Stewardship, as ordained by God, is, however, not lost by sin. Sin never alters any decree or ordinance of God. Though man through sin has so deeply fallen that it is impossible to be stewards of God, God, in Christ, through grace changes the hearts of those whom He has eternally chosen to be His stewards. Thus God maintains the calling to and the possibility of the stewardship in His own people. And not only is the stewardship maintained, but in Christ it is raised to a much higher plane, for the Christian becomes a steward of heavenly treasures. Through Christ everything, prosperity and adversity, joy and sorrow, good and evil becomes a heavenly treasure for in them and through them we are heaven-bound.
Thus the stewardship of the Christian is not a burden but a pleasure. A pleasure, not rooted in the mistaken notion that we can now do something for God, who did so much for us, and who sorely needs our help. No; true, faithful stewardship is rooted in gratitude and love. How could we ever do anything for God? Is not all that we are and do dependent on the fact that God first gives it to us so that we can return the same to Him? It should always be borne in mind that God is infinite and, therefore, self-sufficient. How can man or any other being add to Him who is endless in all His glorious virtues of wisdom, power, knowledge, bliss and life? Stewardship is the fruit of God’s own work in us, the work of redemption in Christ whereby we have been saved from so great a death and have received the glorious life of the sons of God, whereby God Himself has shed abroad His love in our hearts, from which principle the Christian now lives and labors.
Stewardship is, therefore, a privilege given by God to us for our eternal joy and pleasure. What greater joy and honor can any creature receive than that the all-glorious Creator, who needs no help, stoops so low as to permit us to become laborers together with Him! How elated and over-joyed we would be if we would personally be called by the President to become laborers together with him in the affairs of the nation; the privilege itself would be sufficient reward. How much more so when the God of heaven and earth calls us to be His stewards, laborers together with Him! In heaven nor on earth is there a greater joy and a more glorious privilege; and the privilege as such is a sufficient reward in itself.
For us as Christian stewards, being wards of God’s house, wherein all is of God and wherein all is for God, our duty becomes very evident In the home and by the way, in Church or in the world, in our work or in our play, in our keeping and giving, it is no longer a question of what is God’s portion and what is ours? There is absolutely no sphere in life where we can apportion the things between God and ourselves. The truth is: ALL IS GOD’S. All that we are with heart and soul mind and body, with food and raiment, in life and in death is God’s. Everything which we can see, feel and touch in the world about us is God’s. Today is God’s, tomorrow also. The war is God’s, peace also. The battlefield is God’s, the home is too. Our cradle is God’s and so is our grave. Therefore in all things we may seek only one, and that is God. And wherever we are and whatever we do it must be done faithfully as good stewards of God, that all glory may be His, now and forever.
This also solves the question of what we may and may not do. For as stewards it is not the question of what we may do, but of what we must do. All must be to God, to His glory and praise forevermore. Never may we seek ourselves, always must we seek God.
And the reward? Yes, there shall be a reward; but not of merit on our part, but the reward of grace in Christ. He merited for us the right of the stewardship as well as the grace and strength for its execution. Therefore, stewardship as well as the grace and strength for its execution. Therefore, the steward shall have a reward . . . but of grace for grace. And in the measure that we have been faithful, in that measure, too, shall be the reward; for God is faithful and just. Therefore, Christ says: “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Verily, I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down at meat, and will come forth and serve them”; for we shall hear our Lord say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”.