Toward an Understanding of Christian Stewardship

Kneeling in PrayerThe main word that is translated steward is οἰκονόμος (oikonomos), a compound of the words for house (οἶκος) and law (νόμος). It literally means one who rules over a household. Therefore a steward is one who manages his masters assets for the master’s benefit.

A steward manages the assets of another. Therefore the first question that must be asked about Christian stewardship is, “what assets are to be managed?”

The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 that the believer has been purchased by God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore when coming to faith in Jesus Christ and trusting him for salvation, the believer then acknowledges that he is under the ownership of God. Paul writes in these verses:

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (ESV)

Later in the same book, in 1 Corinthians 7:23, Paul writes”

23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (ESV)

The first asset that a Christian steward must manage is himself. He is to be lead and directed by God for God’s purpose. The Christian Steward must be transformed in his thinking (see Romans 12:1-2), and he must surrender himself to be filled by the Holy Spirit as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:15–21 (emphasis added by this author):

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (ESV)

Our thinking must be transformed because Paul tells us that we are born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Believers are being transformed into what God wants us to be, but the process is not instantaneous, it is one that takes time and effort on the part of the believer.

This transformation is the first order of business for the believer. The best news of all is that God is the one who superintends that process and he promises to accomplish it (see Philippians 1:6). The transformation will take place.

The question then arises, for what purpose does God have in allowing the transformation process to happen in this life, on this planet?. The answer to this question is that we have been given a mission. The two clearest statements of this mission are found in Matthew and Acts.

In Matthew 28:18–20 we have recorded the words of Jesus shortly before he was taken up to Heaven:

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)

In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells his followers:

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (ESV)

The Christian Steward has the mission of making disciples by being a witness to Jesus Christ (see the words emphasized above).

Therefore, everything that the steward is, owns and does should be focused on accomplishing this mission. We, as believers in Jesus Christ are called to bring others into relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here are some examples of how the words steward and stewardship are used in the New Testament:

  • Paul and his companions were “stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1)
  • “it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
  • “I am still entrusted with a stewardship.” (1 Corinthians 9:17)
  • Paul considered himself a steward of God’s grace (Ephesians 3:2)
  • Paul was given a stewardship to make the word of God fully known (Colossians 1:25)
  • A teacher in the church has been given a stewardship from God that is by faith (1 Timothy 1:4)
  • An elder or overseer is God’s steward and must be above reproach (Titus 1:7)
  • Believers are to serve one another as good stewards of God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10)

Jesus told the story of the servants and the talents in Matthew 25. The servants who used their talents wisely were commended with the statement, “well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21, 23). The servant who did not use his talents wisely was described by the master as a “wicked and slothful servant.” (Matthew 25:26) The lesson is that each servant will have to give an answer as to how he used the resources given to him by the master.

In Ephesians 5:16, which was quoted above, Paul tells us to make the best use of the time we have been given. From the parables on money that Jesus told in the Gospels, we can see that stewardship involves the use of financial resources which we have been given. From the remainder of the verses in Ephesians 5 quoted above, we can see that the steward is answerable to God as to how he conducts himself.

The conclusion is that a Christian steward has been given orders from the master as to what he is to accomplish. The Christian steward has been given resources to use in accomplishing this task. We see also that the steward is answerable to the master as to how well he accomplished the task.

The only question that remains is for each of us to ask ourselves, “how am I doing in my stewardship?” It is better to ask it now while there is time to take corrective action.

What do you think? Please add other aspects of Christian stewardship in the comment section.