The first time I ever heard of a steward was on the HMS Queen Elizabeth I on my way to England in 1963.
My father had recently been transferred to manage the start-up of a plant in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as director of European operations. We took our first trip across the so-called “pond” (the Atlantic Ocean) on board the Queen Elizabeth I —at the time, the largest passenger liner afloat. At 86,000 tons, it was a literal floating city.
While on board, guests were treated to the ultimate care in everything from dining and recreation to relaxing and sleeping. Each cabin, in first class and cabin class, was assigned a steward who was absolutely responsible for you while on board.
The steward cleaned the cabin, made the beds, changed the linens and gave directions so you could find your way about the ship. The steward answered all your questions pertaining to the ship. He made sure your voyage was well managed and as worry free as possible. The stewards were very faithful. They took their job very seriously and you could count on them.
God’s Faithful Stewards
God places high regard on stewardship, and He expects His people to become faithful stewards as well.
Steward as used in the New Testament (translated from the Greek word oikonomos ) means an administrator, a caretaker, a custodian and a manager. This word refers to a person who is a faithful manager, overseer and caretaker over his or her own or others’ property and interests.
God inspired Paul to make it clear that He requires His people to be faithful stewards of all that He gives them (1 Corinthians 4:2 1 Corinthians 4:2Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
American King James Version×).
Let’s understand the role of a faithful steward especially as it applies to us today in God’s Church.
One of the most important, if not the most important, keys to faithful stewardship or management is vigilance. A vigilant steward is to be watchful, alert, attentive and awake in every aspect of life.
Our lives can be boiled down to four areas that require faithful and vigilant stewardship or management. These areas include our time, our possessions, our health and our relationships with God and man.
When we think of becoming good stewards, we most often think of how we manage our finances and our faithfulness in paying God’s tithes and offerings.
However, because our lives are made up of much more than our finances, our growth as faithful stewards must encompass the vigilant management of every area of our lives. Otherwise we will miss the mark that God wants us to hit.
This world is filled with time-robbing distractions. We, as God’s people, must learn to manage our time so the most important tasks are accomplished ahead of the many time robbers that can preoccupy us. These time robbers titillate our senses and make us feel as though we are doing something important. For example, playing golf, watching a sports event, going out to a show or doing anything else that occupies our time when our prayer and Bible study have been left undone is poor stewardship and management of our time. If we place things that this world offers ahead of our growth in character through local church Bible studies, choir rehearsals or visiting shut-ins, we are mismanaging our time.
The principle of good stewardship applies to every area of our lives including how we manage and maintain our possessions. Our possessions really belong to God. If we neglect to clean and repair our homes, our cars, our “stuff,” we make it evident to God that we are putting other less important things ahead of our stewardship of the possessions with which God has blessed us.
Our health is also an area that requires stewardship and management daily. Our daily diet, our daily exercise and the time we allow for a good night’s sleep, are all areas that require diligent stewardship.
Stewardship of Relationships
Finally, our relationship with first God and, next, our fellowman must be managed as the top priority in our lives.
Nothing must be allowed to distract us from our daily worship and relationship with our Creator. We must make the time, in spite of our busyness, to pray and to study God’s Word every day. Otherwise, we are going through life as a soldier who is naked in battle, with no weapons or armor to protect him from his adversaries.
Our relationships with our fellowman must also be a daily priority. Our example at home, on the job, at school, on the road and in fellowship with our brethren must also reflect Christ in us and outgoing concern, away from the self.
Let’s look at two familiar parables from the perspective of faithful and vigilant stewardship.
First consider the parable of the 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13 Matthew 25:1-13 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8 And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12 But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I know you not.
13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.
American King James Version×). As we understand, they all slumbered and slept. Perhaps they all neglected their stewardship responsibilities for a while. However, eventually half of the virgins woke up and got to work as vigilant and faithful stewards. But the other half remained neglectful of their stewardship responsibilities. They continued to mismanage, they continued to lack vigilance, they kept following the crowd and they did not pay attention to the proper stewardship of their life.
When the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ) returned, the faithful stewards were able to enter into the marriage supper with the Groom, but the unfaithful stewards where denied entrance and lost out on their reward.
The parable of the talents directly follows (Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods.
15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours.
26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed:
27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury.
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents.
29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has.
30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version×). In this parable, Christ uses talents or monetary units that He figuratively distributed to His servants to maintain and increase until His return. These talents actually represent individual abilities and qualities that Christ expects His people to cultivate once they are called and placed into the Body of Christ—the Church.
As is pointed out in this parable, those who grow in stewardship are rewarded and those who mismanage—who float, who do not pay attention and fail to even begin to make the slightest improvements and growth—are punished and lose out on their reward.
Looking for Growth
The lesson for us is this. God and Jesus Christ are looking for an increase from us. By doing our very best by growing in stewardship and not floating or doing nothing, we fulfill what Christ says in Luke 16:10 Luke 16:10He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
American King James Version×, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”
However, once called and placed into the Body of Jesus Christ, the stewardship that is required of us is not a result of our own power or abilities. The strength, inspiration and growth in the management of our lives must come from God through the Holy Spirit in us, otherwise, our labor is in vain and the growth in stewardship is self-righteous, human growth.
We must always remember the source of our strength to please God, as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And in 1 Corinthians 15:10 1 Corinthians 15:10But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
American King James Version×, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
Let’s strive to be continually growing as vigilant and faithful stewards of God’s way through His Spirit in us. We will then hear this from Christ when we are standing before Him at His second coming: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’ ” (Matthew 25:23 Matthew 25:23His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
American King James Version×). UN