Summary: Everything we have came from God- even our personalities- and we need to exercise proper stewardship within this reality.
March 3, 2001
We don’t have stewards in most areas of our lives anymore, but in a bygone day, stewards were tremendously important. In fact, the efficient operation of a household depended on the faithfulness and diligence of the steward. The steward was the official who controlled the affairs of a large household, overseeing the services at the master’s table, directing the household servants, and controlling the household expenses on behalf of the master. Without question, you’ll recognize this to be a powerful and very influential person.
If you remember the story of Joseph, in Egypt, when his brothers came, it was the steward who received the instruction about returning their money, and whom the brothers talked with when they found it and were very troubled by that discovery. It was the steward, named Eliezer, who would have been Abraham’s heir if Ishmael and Isaac had not been born. In Daniel, it is the steward of the king that the 4 Jewish men talked with about not eating the rich food and being able to have a more healthy diet, and who complied, reluctantly, fearing loss of his office and privilege if they were to appear to be wanting.
Stewardship is very important in the Christian life, as well and although we don’t use the term all that much, in general life, it is an important concept for us in 2001, too! It was for the Corinthian Christians and Paul had to bring them up short because their ideas were not rooted soundly on this subject.
Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 4, and let’s unpack some of what Paul has to say to us today, and here, even as he had to say some things to the Corinthian Christians. We have a discussion in which he attacks self-sufficiency, self-satisfaction, and self-exaltation in any form. Paul is truly the humble servant of God, and has the most incredible measure of perspective about what is important.
Let’s look at the focus in the first few verses here.
v. 1- ministers of Christ- now that ‘could’ be read in several different ways with different messages. Some might read that in a way to emphasize their own importance as ministers of Christ, but that would be very much out of keeping with the context. The key word is not ‘ministers’; the key word is ‘Christ’. This is a term of ownership or possession, where Paul is emphasizing who he answers to.
Similarly, in the expressions ‘stewards of the mysteries of God’ can be read, and has been read over the years, in different ways. It could be read to emphasize the specialness of someone who understands or has these mysteries of God. But, again, that would be outside the proper context, and I believe you’ll recognize that as you put this chapter in the context of the 3 chapters that have come before, where Paul’s constant emphasis is on “Him” and identity coming from Him and accountability to Him. There’s absolutely NO space for emphasis on the individual as special. The focus here is that the mysteries belong to God, and they are stewards of those. A steward had to behave carefully. Remember the parable of the unfaithful steward, who was about to be removed from office because of abusing it and bringing a certain shame to his master and his master’s household? Stewardship carried heavy responsibility.