“Moreover, it is required in a steward that a man be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2)
In a past article (see “Slavery and Stewardship”) we came to a greater understanding of slavery in the ancient Roman Empire and the importance this concept was to both Jesus and Paul in their teachings. This leads us into how ownership and slavery tie directly into Stewardship for us today.
When Jesus and Paul saw a slave, they thought of the Greek word (the language of the New Testament) “doulos”. If you read from the book of Matthew to Revelation, you will see this word about 180 times. It is used all through the gospels and Paul’s letters as well as other books. Those who translated it into English often used the word “servant” rather than “slave”. This is most likely because of the stigma “slave” has with those of us in the West who have a historical understanding of slavery rooted in the African slave trade. However, as we discussed last week, the ancient institution of slavery was quite different than the more modern slavery with which we are familiar.
Jesus used the word “doulos” for slave in a parable (story) he used for illustrating a principle about God and his kingdom. “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.’”
The word for steward in the Greek language is “oikonomos” which was someone (usually a slave) who managed the household affairs of an owner. In this parable, the steward was put in charge of his servants, which included his entire household. Later in the parable Jesus indicated this steward was a slave.
Why is this important for us to understand today? Many people today use the word “stewardship” for many different reasons. However, at the heart of the word is one who is a slave of Jesus Christ. This person, who has given his or her life to Jesus, manages the things he possesses to accomplish God’s own purposes. A true steward understands Christ is the Owner of all and he has a responsibility to use his resources exactly the way he wants.
Does this place Christ in the position of a slave-owner? John 15:16a says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” If we picture a slave-owner as a ruthless taskmaster that only wants to use us and has no benevolence towards us then we have the wrong picture of Christ. He has chosen you and me out of a deep and abiding love to rescue us from sin through his own sacrifice. There is no greater evidence of love than the love Jesus Christ has for the world.
Acknowledge God’s ownership in your life as his slave; not out of a hateful desire to control, but because of his sacrificial love. Our response should be to seek him in prayer, desire to be as faithful as possible, and walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. As slaves, we are also stewards. By combining these principles together, we quickly realize that God has entrusted everything we possess to us to use faithfully for his kingdom purposes.