The idea of stewardship is found throughout the Scriptures. In fact, an important foundation that needs to be laid in all our lives is a realisation that we’re all stewards in this life. The one thing that causes us to fail to understand this is when we think we’re owners instead of stewards.
This is easily evident in the way we speak and how we make decisions. When our conversations are filled with ‘mine’ and ‘I’, in all likelihood, we’re no longer thinking as stewards. In the same manner, do we pray and ask God about the decisions we’ve to make, recognising that our lives belong to Him?
Interestingly, Jesus spoke about stewardship extensively. In the many instances when He spoke on this subject, they were directed towards the Pharisees – the religious leaders of His days. What is of note is that the resource that Jesus was focused on with regard to their stewardship was not finances, but rather the people they were supposed to be leading and guiding. The indictment against them was that they were using the people for their own benefit instead of stewarding them as God’s people.
I’d like for us to look at Luke 12 because in this chapter alone are two parables relating to stewardship. The first is the Parable of the Rich Fool (vs 16-21), and the second is the Parable of the Faithful and Evil Servants (vs 35-48).
In the first parable, the ground of a rich man yielded plentifully and in his prosperity, he decided to build bigger barns. At that very moment, the Lord decided to end this man’s life, and all the wealth he had accumulated came to naught. There are two important points to note. Read the parable and you’ll see clearly that this man had the mindset of ownership instead of stewardship. In two verses (vs 17-18), he used the words ‘I’ and ‘my’ nine times. This is a life-endangering mindset to have.
The second point is that he only thought of his own enjoyment and was not rich towards God. Now it’s quite obvious that God doesn’t need our money. Hence to be rich towards God here inherently means that we be rich and generous towards people. God is no killjoy. He blesses us so that we may enjoy the fruits of His blessings. However, let’s not forget that the primary and most important reason He blesses us is so that we may be a blessing to others. When we cease to do that, there’s no reason left for Him to bless us.
In the second parable, these same two issues crop up. The faithful servant maintained a posture of stewardship until the Lord’s return, even though the Lord delayed His return. The evil servant on the other hand begins to eat and drink as though he’s the owner. Not only that, he mistreats the other servants as though they were his servants rather than his master’s. Strangely enough, in both parables, failure begins when they departed from a stewardship mindset to an ownership mindset. This is then followed and evidenced by how they treated people.
Another point to note is found in vs 42 in which we’re shown an insight into the Lord’s measurement of faithful stewardship. The faithful servant gives those under his care ‘their portion of food in due season.’ The word for ‘portion’ here implies a quantum that’s right and equitable. In other words, they were judged by the quantity that was distributed and the timeliness in which the provisions were distributed. If you’re an employer of staff, this is something you should take heed of – pay your staff a right salary and on time.
When it comes to the subject of stewardship, the stakes are incredibly high. Take a careful read through the parables about stewardship in the Gospels. The judgment on those who do not steward well is always very severe.
Here’s a closing thought: God created the Garden of Eden and placed Adam and Eve in it. Everything was given into their care and they could eat whatever they wanted, just so that they remembered that they were not the owners, God designated one tree in the Garden that they were not permitted to eat from.
When Satan came to tempt Eve to disobey God, it was an offer for Eve to step over the boundary and become an owner just like God. After all, there can be no restrictions if you’re the owner. Eve succumbed to the temptation and mankind fell.
Remember this – we’re stewards and not owners.
Ps. Lim Lip Yong