On the real meaning of stewardship


StewardshipIf you’ve spent any time in a church, there is a high probability that you have been exposed to the word stewardship. It is a great word and a great concept, but too often it is used only in reference to finances and giving. “Stewardship Sunday” is the day when the pastor talks about the financial situation of the church and people are encouraged to give money. But this is only one aspect of Christian stewardship and I would argue that it is one of the less important aspects.

What is a steward?

The third definition from the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a steward as a “person whose job is to manage the land and property of another person.” The idea is that everything that we’ve been given is a gift from God over which he retains ownership. The Greek term for steward is a compound of the words for house and law. In other words, the steward is the one who rules the house or the house manager.

In what area are we to be stewards?

Financial giving is one aspect of stewardship, but it is not the only one, or even the most important one. Here are some other areas over which Scripture indicates that we are to be good stewards:

  • Time
  • Relationships
  • Talents / Abilities
  • Spiritual gifts

Time

Maybe it is only me, but I find that I waste a lot of time on trivialities. That time could be better spent on things more important. On the flip side, we are not wired to work at peak capacity all the time. We need to balance work, rest and recreation in order to be effective in the long term.

How I spend my time is a reflection of what I think is important. So, to be a good steward of my time, I should prioritize activities and make sure that sufficient time is given to the most important activities.

Relationships

Relationships are the only thing from this life that we will carry into the next. Therefore, it seems that the building of relationships should be a high priority.

Jesus gave us the mission of making disciples wherever we happen to find ourselves. This speaks to the fact that God wants all men and women to come into relationship with himself and with each other. We should be investing in relationships toward that end.

Talents and Abilities

We have the responsibility to develop the talents and abilities that God has given each of us. Part of this being thankful for and working with the talents I do have rather than being envious of those who have talents I don’t possess.  For example, I was never on a path to play Major League Baseball, but that did not prevent me from enjoying church league softball. Compared to the big league players I was hopelessly deficient but it was still fun to work to progress to a higher level of mediocrity.

One of the great things that came out of the Reformation was the understanding that by using our abilities to their full potential, we paid honor to the giver of those gifts. The craftsman could worship through his craft.

Spiritual Gifts

I put spiritual gifts in a separate category because they are different than talents and abilities. A spiritual gift is a gift given for the building up of the church. Gifts like teaching, service, hospitality and exhortation come to mind. These are supernaturally given and should also be developed in cooperation with the leadership of the local church. Too often people do not seek to understand or develop their spiritual gift and both they and the body of Christ suffer as a result.

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What other category would you add where the principle of stewardship applies?