S T E W A R D S H I P

Elder Joe Holder 

 

           We all are subject to becoming too set on our way and perspective to the detriment of truth and interests that are greater than we.  The problem of the human ego can invade men in ministry as readily as it can control men in any other life work.  Paul closes his first letter to Timothy with a passionate plea for Timothy to guard the greater trust of the gospel that was committed to him.  Stewardship is not a word that you will likely hear on the job next week, but the concept is as vital to the pure and unselfish Christian life today as in the first generation of the faith.  Our ministry has nothing to do with us as individuals, and it has everything to do with our guarding and preserving of a sacred trust.  Stewardship refers to how we manage something that belongs to another.  We will never possess it as our own unique and private property.  By definition it belongs to another, but has been given to us for safe-keeping and wise use.  We are responsible, not to hoard that possession to ourselves for personal gain, but to preserve it, and eventually to pass it on to others whom we have trained to respect it and preserve it for yet future custodians, stewards of the gospel. 

            The nature of a steward means that he cannot alter the essential character of the valuable treasure committed to his care.  He may magnify it so that its true value appears more clearly to others, but he may not alter it.  This truth appears in the parable of the absent master.  As he prepared to leave, he gave a sum of money to three of his trusted servants, his stewards.  When he returned, he called on each of them to report on their stewardship.  Two of them had wisely invested the money and gained a return on the investment.  The third had merely buried the treasure and now returned it to the master with no gain.  The two men who invested the money were rewarded.  The masterís dialogue with the third servant is insightful.  It reveals that the servant actually had no respect for his master.  He thought him to be cruel and unfair.  He believed that his master had gained his fortune by dishonest and cruel unfairness to others.  Essentially the servant viewed himself as more righteous than his master.  He was rebuked and punished for his arrogance and for his failure to invest the money put under his care.  How does this lesson apply to our Christian life?  God has given a precious treasure to each of us.  What have we done with it?  If we live so as to magnify our faith, to communicate its value to others and to equip others to take it into future generations with similar respect, we have gained a return on Godís investment for Him, not for ourselves.  If we hoard it to ourselves and never consider passing it on to other faithful stewards, we essentially play the role of the third servant and must expect the same judgment from God. 

            How can you test your stewardship?  Take a long look at what the people around you think of your personal Christianity.  Do they view it with as much (or more) respect as you?  Or do they view it with less respect than you?  Does your life magnify the faith or diminish it? 

            A further assessment gets a bit more in our faces.  If every minister in your fellowship or every member in your church practiced their faith exactly as you, how would the culture survive?  If every member of your church practiced giving as you give, what would the church bank account look like?  If every member of your church practiced visiting those in need as you practice it, how much attention would the needy in your church receive?  If every member practiced trying to win their way or viewpoint as you practice trying to get your way, how united would the church be? 

            Obviously these questions contain a hearty measure of confrontation for each of us.  They build on a simple premise.  If your whole church were made up of people who were clones of you, what kind of church would you have?  Each member of any particular church may well have a number of good traits, but each member also has a number of flaws that need the influence of the gospel applied to them.  If you always want to get your way, a church with only cloned images of you would be a fractious, schismatic church full of people all pulling in their own direction to get their way.  If you fail to give to your church according to Scripture, your church would have an empty bank account. 

            By personal conduct, realize it or not, we daily use our stewardship either for a good return on the investment for God, or we bury it because we think that our own ideas of life are better than Godís.  We shall surely pass our personal attitude toward the gospel along to others around us.  We truly need to learn Paulís lesson to Timothy and to respond to this noble apostleís plea that we guard the treasure of the gospel as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.   

 

 

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