Division Stewardship Director
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean
In order for us to appreciate this presentation, let us begin by defining the term steward. According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary stewardship is, “The management of another person’s property, finances, or household affairs.” This means that a steward is one who takes care of property or affairs belonging to another. In other words a steward represents the interests of the owner.
As a guide to our presentation we will examine four questions.
1.From a biblical point of view, who is the owner?
2.Who is the steward?
3.What is expected from the steward?
4.What the steward ought to remember.
Does the Bible support the idea of ownership? If it does who is the owner?
From a biblical point of view, who is the owner?
In response to our first question, we will go to the Book of Psalms. Addressing the issue of ownership, the psalmist points out that, “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1 NIV). See also (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).
The language is so clear that the LORD is the rightful owner of the world and everything that is in it. The language used in the text is all inclusive that it leaves nothing in the world that does not belong to God. Just from the text cited above, we have no claim of ownership of anything that is in the world. Can you name some of the things we normally refer to as ours? The Bible also makes this claim “for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine, If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Psalm 50:10-12 NIV).
God’s ownership includes even the birds of the air, the cattle and even all the creatures of the field. Lest we be tempted to think that the ownership of God excludes the beasts of the field. That’s the reason why God says that if He was hungry, He could not even come to any one of us to beg for food since the whole world belongs to Him. It is so easy for us to relate to God as though He was dependent on us.
Matthew Henry commenting on God’s ownership affirms that God, “has an incontestable propriety in them and dominion over them, has them all always under his eye and within his reach, and can make what use he pleases of them; they all wait on him, and are all at his disposal?” It is by this right of ownership that the Lord throws a challenge at us that he could not be seen to be in need when the whole earth is full of His treasure. By virtue of God being the owner, it does not make sense to think of Him as one begging for support from His creatures. Haggai 2:8 testifies that even the silver and the gold belong to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us that we also belong to God both by creation and redemption. An accurate understanding of ownership assists us to be aware that even we ourselves belong to God.
Food for thought: How would you feel if somebody taking care of your property behaved in a manner that demanded you to beg for your own property?
Thus we can see that our God as an owner has no need for things since this whole world and its fullness is under His disposal to use as He chooses.
Some years ago I read a story about a certain farmer who one afternoon was studying his Bible. The farmer read the texts we just have read. Convicted by his new discovery, the farmer knelt down to confess to God that for all the years he had regarded the farm as his property not knowing that God was the real owner. The farmer re-dedicated the farm back to God as the rightful owner, while he was going to manage the farm on God’s behalf.
He committed the security of the farm and its prosperity in God’s hands. The same afternoon the farmer met his fellow neighbors who were all farmers with high excitement to tell them of his new discovery that God was the real owner of his farm. When the fellow farmers listened to him, they just laughed at him as if something had gone wrong in his mind. How could he say the farm belonged to God when it was he who had bought the farm at a sacrifice and even held title to it?
The farmer insisted that regardless of their words of discouragement he was going to stick to his decision. It is said during the planting season, the farmers went out to sow their seed. Unfortunately, there came a plague of locusts and destroyed all the crops in the neighboring farms except for the farm of the farmer who had committed his farm to God.
When the other farmers saw that his crop was not destroyed by the locusts, they came to inquire from him on what chemical he was using to destroy the locusts. The farmer replied that he had no chemical except for the fact that the same God who was owner of the farm was also the same God who owned the locusts. So He could choose whether to allow the locusts to graze in His farm or not.
How important it is for us like the farmer to recognize God as the rightful owner of everything we own including ourselves. Such a realization would lead us to leave the security of everything in God’s hands.
Having established the undisputable ownership of God of our world and everything in it, we now need to consider our second question.
Who is the steward?
To address the question we need to go to the book of Genesis where God gave dominion of His creation to man. The Genesis account points out that at creation God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground" (Genesis 1:26). The record in the book of Genesis tells us about God committing everything He had created to be under man.
The psalmist affirms the same thought by saying that God put everything under man so that men could take care of God’s creation. See also (Psalm 8:6-8). In assigning humanity the responsibility of dominionship, God did not surrender His right of ownership. We are stewards in the sense that God committed to us to take care of His creation. We are also stewards because we had no share in creation but we are actually part of the creation. Since all of us belong to God, we are in that respect stewards of God.
What is expected of us?
If I were to ask each one of us to tell me what kind of qualities you expected to see in a person you could entrust with your valuable property, some of you may talk about trust, some may think of a sense of responsibility while some may think of accountability while some may say faithfulness. This brings us to what Paul says about what is expected among stewards. “For it is required in stewardship that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). What does this tell us? It simply says to us, stewardship is a position of trust and honor.
You cannot just go into the streets and pick anybody you find to make them a manager. You need to do a careful selection. If human beings have high expectations for their managers, what about the God of heaven? Faithfulness is not a partial requirement. It is not something that has a time frame. No wonder the Bible encourages us to be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). In Matthew 24:45 Jesus raises a question about the faithful servant who remains faithful until the coming of his master.
The challenge is for you and me to ask the Lord to help us to be the kind of stewards who will be faithful in handling the property of the owner.
What we ought to remember
We need to remember:
1.That God is the rightful owner of the earth and everything in it.
2.That whatever we have has been entrusted to us by God so that we can manage it on His behalf.
3.That God is not dependent upon us.
4.That we should manage God’s property in the manner that God would like it to be managed.
5.That stewardship is a position of trust and honor.
6.That true faithfulness is a lifetime requirement.