Erika F. Puni, Director, General Conference Stewardship
Summary: The author presents two great stewards of the Old Testament and illustrates how their faithfulness as an expression of their stewardship became a blessing to others.
Faithfulness is a quality of Christian character and a spiritual value that God desires and expects from all of His people. Its expression through faithful behavior is a consequence of personal connectedness and relationship with Jesus. And only through living the life of Christ in us, can we as stewards of the Kingdom bear this fruit of faithfulness. In this concept article, I want to present two great stewards of the Old Testament and to illustrate how their faithfulness as an expression of their stewardship became a blessing to others.
Joseph?God’s faithful steward in Egypt
A key personal reference with regards to Joseph’s early life in Egypt is the phrase “the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:21) which appears several times in Genesis 39. This notation that “the Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:8) would indicate that God’s presence was with him as a young person, and even in a foreign land. Whereas he was far away from his family and community, yet he was not out of sight from God’s radar of divine grace and sovereignty. And in God’s providence, Joseph was placed in Egypt to serve as a savior for his family and a steward of the Lord.
“The Lord was with Joseph” would also mean that God was an integral part of his daily living and experience. This was the case when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife to sleep with him, and he replied “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9). For Joseph, sin was not just about violation of trust between him and his master or taking advantage of a character weakness in Potiphar’s wife, but a serious infringement into his own relationship with God. Every act and decision of his heart was measured in relationship to the will of his God, and in this sense he was a faithful steward.
But the repetitiveness of the phrase “the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:8) would also imply that God’s presence and His centrality in Joseph’s life was not an accident but a matter of personal choice. Joseph chose to have God as the center of his universe, and everything else was periphery and secondary to this spiritual value. Joseph’s upbringing and home education no doubt played an important part in his faithfulness to God, but with every test he faced he chose to honor God and God in turn honored him. By putting God first, Joseph experienced prosperity and success; and he found favor in the eyes of Potiphar and the prison warden (Genesis 39:2,3,4,21,23). Additionally, the Bible noted that Joseph’s life as steward brought blessings to “everything Potiphar had both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).
Daniel?God’s faithful steward in Babylon
Like Joseph, Daniel was taken out of his homeland and people and was relocated in the courts of the conquering king?Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:1-4). In both cases, however, God as Lord of the Universe manifested His presence (Daniel 1:9) and power in miraculous ways thus overruling earthly situations which would have otherwise brought ultimate destruction and unexpected end (Daniel 2:12) to these young stewards.
In his very first test (food) as a prisoner of war, Daniel made a brave decision (Daniel 1:8) which demonstrated principle and resilience which are expressions of Christian stewardship. For Daniel, being removed from his religious community at Palestine was not a reason to compromise his way of life as a Jew or his core beliefs as a follower and worshipper of Yahweh. More importantly, his decision to honor God by staying with a simple vegetarian diet brought immediate and superior results. “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (Daniel 1:15). “In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (Daniel 1:20). By putting God first and foremost in his life, Daniel experienced the blessings of the Lord.
The test to eat from the food items served for the king was only the beginning of many tests to follow for Daniel and his friends (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). King Nebuchadnezzar in the second year of his reign had a dream that bothered him much. But while Daniel was not part of the “wise” men of Babylon called to interpret the king’s dream, at the end he was certainly counted and included to be executed for the failure of others (Daniel 2:10-13). Faced with a matter of life and death, Daniel again showed wisdom in handling this delicate situation by speaking first to Arioch with “tact” (Daniel 2:14). Secondly, he made a personal appearance and appeal to the king for more time. This was a bold move on his part. Thirdly, he together with his friends through prayer sought the “God of heaven” for mercy (Daniel 2:18).
Daniel was a strategic thinker, and God rewarded his personal efforts and faith by revealing to him the very same dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. At the end of this challenge the king appointed Daniel to be “ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men” (Daniel 2:48). Daniel was God’s steward in Babylon. “Moreover, at Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court” (Daniel 2:49).
It pays to be faithful!