Okay, so we have a good idea of what it means to be a steward. But what does it look like to practice stewardship from a Biblical perspective?
Interestingly, the New Testament word for stewardship comes from the Greek word oikonomos, which basically means the manager of the affairs of a household or in other words, work. This guarduanship position is clearly shown throughout the Bible from beginning to end (more on those examples in a minute.)
When it comes to being good stewards through the lens of a Biblical mindset, in particular, it turns out that one of the primary factors that make us good Stewards is a life intimately spent with Christ. No, that’s not a cop-out answer. It is the answer. A life spent with the master naturally makes the servant a better manager of their affairs.
In a sense Biblical stewardship is a responsibility, a duty, dare I saw an obligation of Christians. We’re required to impact, care for, utilize, and manage the affairs of creation in whatever way God brings us into contact with it.
This isn’t a silent partnership with God, either. Biblical stewardship involves going “all in” with our time, effort, sacrifice, talents, and resources — and when I say “our,” the truth is, they’re all His anyway. That’s why being good stewards is such a crucial part of the Christian lifestyle.
The fruits of good stewardship
There are countless fruits that come with good stewardship. In fact, it was Matthew Henry who said, “God’s good stewards have something to show for their diligence.”
While many of the results of being good stewards are tangible, human beings — i.e. helping the helpless, tithing, caring for the Earth, etc. — there are also instances where the act of christian stewardship creates results on the inside. For instance:
- Help us shed the idea that we own things.
- Mold us into better people.
- Increase our willingness and ability to help others.
- Point us to God.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to better gauge how well we’re operating as stewards:
How does being good stewards make us better people?
Is being a good steward making you a more responsible individual? Is it increasing your sense of accountability? Do you find yourself more willing or even eager to serve others?
Does our stewardship let us help others in need?
John Wesley answered this one best when he said, “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”
Is your stewardship disconnecting you from your possessions and making it easier to help those in need?
Does our stewardship constantly points us to Jesus Christ?
Being a steward doesn’t have to look like Denethor leading Gondor without a king in The Lord of the Rings. Biblical stewardship is an intimate activity that should push us closer to a God that is very present and active in his Creation.
Is our behavior as stewards making us more Christ-like?
Again, I’ll turn to the theologians on this one. R.C. Sproul hit this on the head when he said, “Fundamentally, stewardship is about exercising our God-given dominion over His creation, reflecting the image of our creator God in His care, responsibility, maintenance, protection, and beautification of His creation.”
Are you reflecting the image of your Creator as a steward of his creation?
Examples of stewardship in the bible
Alright, while we’ve discussed meanings, benefits, and concepts so far, I always like to drive these home with examples. Let’s take a minute to consider just a handful of times that we see stewardship in the Bible.
Stewardship starts with Adam and Eve
The first few chapters of Genesis revolve around stewardship — and not just the fact that humanity is called to be stewards of Creation, either. They also establish the absolute truth that God created everything.
Why does that matter in this context? Because it makes it crystal clear that any righteous authority within creation is rooted in the Creator. In other words, everything in creation is under God, and therefore any authority you have comes to you via the position of a steward.
Then, of course, there’s the most iconic form of stewardship in all of Christianity. God makes man in His own image and then He “let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” (Gen 1:26b King James Version — used throughout).
Joseph was a steward more than once
The most practical version of God given guardianship that we see in the Bible comes from Joseph. The man serves as a steward both in Potiphar’s house and as the Pharaoh’s right hand over the entire nation of Egypt.
Throughout his life, this man consistently shows what it takes to care for a master’s possessions. He helps Potiphar’s household thrive and even protects his master’s wife from himself. When he’s promoted to second in command in the whole nation, he does his best to protect the Pharaoh’s threatened resources, literally saving countless lives while doing so.
King David has a faith relapse as a steward
King David, the man, was an awesome king, and most of his time in leadership provides us with examples of good stewards that looks to God for guidance. However, I’m going to pick on him a little bit here.
In 1 Chronicles chapter 21, David insists on taking a census of the nation of Israel even though he knows God doesn’t want him to. Eventually, God punishes him for his lack of faith and nearly destroys Jerusalem.
While David repents, the episode shows us that even the best stewards can act out of their own fear of failure. David was afraid that Israel wasn’t strong enough to protect itself, and ultimately he let that fear drive his actions — even when they didn’t line up with the Lord’s.
Jesus Christ’s parable of the talents
In Matthew 25 Jesus gives us one of the most classic examples of being a good stewards in the form of the parable of the talents. The lesson shows three servants that are entrusted with the wealth of their master.
In this case, the failure doesn’t come from failing to protect and preserve, but rather a lack of motivation to build on what was given.