I began my journey in stewardship ministries in 1969, and I have worked full time for thirty-seven years in this ministry. During all these years, I have heard different concepts of stewardship. Ideas developed through the years. In the interest of finding the original meaning of stewardship, I was led to investigate the Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments. While the books of the Old Testament (OT) were written in ancient Hebrew, the books of the New Testament (NT), were written in Greek.
Let us make man in our image (selem); let them have dominion (radah) over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth"
Original Languages Shed Light
Bruce Corley in his book, Intertestamental Perspective of Stewardship (1971, p.16) states that an adequate concept of stewardship must be based on the semantics of the group of words in the original language. Since the OT was written mostly in ancient Hebrew, and the NT in Greek, it was necessary for me to clarify the concept as it appears in these languages and then compare it with the concept that has been poured into the modern languages. The word oikonomía comes from the common Greek and describes the responsibility assigned some to direct, manage or be in charge of the house of his or her master.
Because oikonomía (stewardship) did not begin, nor is it defined, in the NT books, I had to search the OT in order to know where and when stewardship began. Finally, I found reference to it in the book of Genesis. Moses records that on the sixth day of creation, God (Elohim) said, "Let us make man in our image (selem); let them have dominion (radah) over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Gen. 1:26).
According to James Strong in The Dictionary of Hebrew and Aramaic Words (2002, p.123), the word radah (dominion) which appears in the original text, means to "direct, dominate, subdue, rule, govern." A careful reading of chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis finds that Adam and Eve were to direct or manage five things: 1. The world, 2. Life, 3. Family, 4. Resources, and 5. Time appointed by God.
It was a responsibility assigned before the creation of humans; it was defined by God, before human beings were created, and before the formation of religious organizations.
A valuable insight I gained is that stewardship is not an optional responsibility that we can accept or leave at our convenience. Whether or not a human being has a religious affiliation, believes or does not believe in the existence of God, agrees or does not agree with God, stewardship is still his or her assigned responsibility for which God will hold everyone accountable. It was a responsibility assigned before the creation of humans; it was defined by God, before human beings were created, and before the formation of religious organizations.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus clarified this duty through the parable of the unjust steward, where He reports that, "There was a rich man who had a steward who was accused of wasting his possessions. And he called him, and said, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be a steward" (Luke 16: 1, 2). It affirms that God will demand an account of mankind’s responsibility. He will require every human being to give an account of their management of the world, their life, family, resources and time. Failure to take this responsibility seriously has led to a loss of the original biblical concept of stewardship and a loss of the privileges that are included in it.