Summary: Faithfulness is always rewarded beyond our wildest dreams. May the Lord maintain us in faithfulness, even though that faithfulness may sometimes involve us in an appearance of utter failure The Lord make us good stewards.
Reading: 1 Cor. 4:1-2, 1 Cor. 9:17, Titus 1:7-8, Col. 1:25, 1 Tim. 1:4
The subject of our meditation is to be that of stewardship. A steward is a man who, on the one hand, stands in a living relationship to all that his lord has, and, on the other hand, in an equally close relationship to all who look to his lord for the supply of their needs, or to receive somewhat of his bounty. So that the steward is a very responsible person. He is responsible for the reputation of his master. What the world knows of his master will very largely accord with what he steward is, and what the world or the household receives of enrichment and good, will depend very much upon him. That is a very simple illustration, but that, and very much more, is what is bound up with this word “steward”, or “stewardship”.
The Apostle Paul spoke of himself as a steward, as having been entrusted with a stewardship, and it is impressive to note that he applies the term to the believers in the Corinthian church or assembly. We can quire readily understand and appreciate that Paul should be a steward, but when he addresses the people in the Corinthian assembly and says to them, “Let a man to account of us, as of ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Cor. iv. 1), thus bringing them all in, surely that is transferring the designation to very ordinary believers. We cannot, therefore, evade the issue by saying, Well, that applies to special people like Paul! It clearly applies to ordinary people, like the Corinthians and ourselves, and the exhortation is that men should be able to regard us, to take account of us as stewards.
The Fact of Responsibility
That speaks of something more than merely having a standing as believers. We might perhaps think the world must take account of us as Christians; they will do so in any case if we make a profession! But this Divine thought takes us much further. It brings us out into a place of specific and definite responsibility in two connections; firstly, to the Lord, binding up the Lord’s interests with us in an active way; secondly, in a like practical way, to men. We are stewards, we stand in a place between, with a responsibility in two directions.
The Lord’s people need to be reminded, from time to time, of the fact of their responsibility. There is a tremendous responsibility resting upon everyone who is related to the Lord, because that relationship is never a passive one, or ought never to be so. It is not the case that we are just members of a family, and there the matter begins and ends. Membership of the family, in the household of faith, is but one phase of truth, of the teaching of the Word of God. It has its own special meaning and value. The fact that believers are called by a variety of designations, and that the various designations seem to counter one another, presents no actual conflict when it is seen that they are but so many aspects of a whole, and not mutually exclusive. For instance, in the case of earthly relationships, for one to be a member of a family would preclude one from being the steward of the household, but with the spiritual relationship it is not so. We have to keep the family relationship in its own place, to recognize that it brings its own responsibility and obligations, and has its own meaning and value; but with that in its place, you yet find yourself, in another direction, in the position of a steward, where you come into a great and specific responsibility. This holds good of all. We are all called to be stewards; that is God’s thought for every one of us. Such an observation leads us to one or two important considerations.
The Qualification for Stewardship
A fact which should be very helpful to us is that all the Lord’s dealings with us are as with the design of making us such stewards as it is required we should be. A steward has to be qualified for his stewardship. A steward must be a man of certain definite characteristics. The fulfillment of his stewardship will demand experience. He cannot step into a true spiritual stewardship at will. There has to be a real preparation, a real development, a real endowment for such a stewardship. If you read carefully the connection in Paul’s mind between the stewardship and its fulfillment, you will see that the connection is a very practical one, a very active one, a very deep one. He was conscious of the need of special enablement, special gifts, special qualifications, and for such equipment he had to go through special experiences. Stewardship is a matter of training, and deep training at that.