Summary: All we have and are belongs to God, we are stewards of his belonings
Tilling the Soil of the Soul Thanksgiving Sunday 2006
The Spiritual Discipline of Stewardship
Often times when someone speaks of stewardship in a church setting, they talk about budgeting your money, and making sure you tithe – that you give 10% of your income back to God.
While this is not an unimportant part of stewardship, I want to take a broader view of stewardship today. I think that what I present today will be more broadly biblical than just a talk on tithing.
It’s appropriate that I speak about this on thanksgiving. The people of the Bible would likely have been most aware of their call to stewardship at the harvest festivals in Israel. It was the time that they would bring the first tenth of the harvest into the temple storehouses.
What is a Steward?
Steward and Stewardship are not words that you hear much outside of the church; unless you eat in restaurants fancy enough to have a wine steward. A steward was usually a slave in a household, they were the head slave, in charge of running the whole household. They usually had complete control over the finances, would buy and sell and do business in their master’s name. They we a bit of a cross between an administrator and an accountant.
There are some notable stewards in the Bible, Joseph being the most notable. You remember that after his brothers sold Joseph into slavery, Potiphar bought him. After seeing his diligence, wisdom, and the blessing of God on him, Potiphar put him in charge of his whole household. It says that “with Joseph in charge, (Potiphar) did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.”
After a visit to jail, Joseph becomes steward of all of Egypt.
So a steward can be the steward of a household, or of an entire nation. They are not the king, nor are they the master of the house, but they are in charge and they often have a great amount of leeway in the way that they run the affairs of the house or the nation. They do not own anything, but they do assign themselves an income to look after their own needs out of the resources that they are steward over.
Joseph is a good steward because both Potiphar’s house and the nation of Egypt prospered under his stewardship.
Jesus’ parables about bad stewards
The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ’My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.
I think that the best picture of a wicked steward in the media was the Steward of Gondor in the film “Return of the King.” He fit Jesus description to a tee, eating and drinking while the nation he had been put in charge of was being over run with enemies. He was none to happy when the rightful king showed up.
A good steward always remembers that they are a servant of the master, or the king and does all that he or she does with an eye to what is best for their master’s household or kingdom.
So what does that have to do with us?
To begin with, God placed all of humanity in the place of stewards over all creation when he said to Adam, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the Ground” - Genesis 1:28
All humanity are charged with being stewards of God’s creation, But Christians have a special call as stewards
Of the Land
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
In Leviticus, God explains to the people how they are to treat land ownership. He says that land is to never be permanently sold, but only leased and returned to it’s family of origin every 50 years. The reason he gives for this is Leviticus 25:23 "The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.”