Summary: Paul called himself a servant (minister); this sermon calls Christians to live as servants
1Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:1 - 5 (NRSVA)
As soon as the word “stewardship” rolls out of the pastor’s mouth the muffled groans tell you the sermon will be about money. At least that’s what the misers among us imagine – people like the world’s stingiest man who went Christmas shopping and found a vase on sale for $2. It originally cost $400, but the delicate pottery piece was broken. He bought it and had the salesman ship it by mail so that his friend would think he paid $400, and it had been manhandled by the post office; cheapskate! A week after Christmas he received a thank you note from his friend; it read, “Thank you for the lovely vase; it was so very nice of you to wrap each piece separately!”
This passage is certainly about stewardship; that includes money, but there is much more than just money involved.
Paul calls himself a servant (minister). The word he was using described the slave in the rowing galley of a ship, pulling on an oar. He was an under-oarsman, a servant who belonged to God; he was faithfully doing that to which God had called him.
Paul also called himself a steward. That speaks of someone who is also a slave, but a trusted one – a slave that the owner of the house would put in charge of managing the affairs of the estate.
The Faithful Under-Oarsman
So we have this picture of Paul the Apostle as a galley-slave, doing his assigned task of helping the ship of God’s church move forward. The one requirement Paul pointed out was that a steward, or minister, was to be “found faithful”. What did he mean by that? His point was that God has entrusted everything to us, life, family, health, material possessions, opportunities and the promise of God’s power to be His Kingdom people.
A faithful under-oarsman is one who understands this truth from the larger view. The idea of requirement is one of attitude, not accomplishment. God requires that we be found faithful in our earnestness, an attitude of willingness to serve – to grab on to the oar assigned to us and pull with all our strength!
The Faith-LESS Under-Oarsman
If you take the analogy Paul gives and make a few comparisons to the church as a ship, you can see just how important it is for God’s people to be faithful in their service. Under-oarsman are important:
...think how much less power to move ahead the ship has when only half the crew shows-up for work
...think how much harder the remaining crew has to work with just half a team