Stewardship: What’s Our Part?

This is part of the Stewardship Foundations Series.

We’ve looked at how God is in control and how that shapes our thinking about stewardship. God will do His part. We just have to do our part – which God has explained to us in the Bible.

So what does the Bible say about our part?

We Must Be Faithful

Our responsibility is summarized well by Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:2: “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”

Jesus told many parables about stewards. Notice here what He mentioned about the good stewards:

In Matthew 24, Jesus commends a “faithful and wise” steward (Matthew 24:45). The master in the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19:7) praises his stewards for being faithful. In the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:21), the master rewards the stewards, saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Again and again, we see faithfulness as the hallmark of a good steward. But what does that really mean?

A faithful steward was one that acted as his master intended. It wasn’t just loosely doing kinda halfway decent things while not stealing from your master. It was working every second as if your master were right there observing and judging everything you were doing.

And that brings us to another theme of biblical stewardship.

We Are Accountable

Jesus’s parables on stewardship also talk about the master’s return:

In Matthew 24, the master returns, and the stewards are held accountable for their actions. (Matthew 24:46,50) In the Parable of the Minas, the returning master summons his servants to see what they had done (Luke 19:15). The master in the Parable of the Talents comes back and settles accounts. (Matthew 25:19)

At some point, we will stand before God to give account for what we did with our lives. (Revelation 20:12-13).

But we are also accountable on Earth for what we do. God has instituted certain natural laws, such as the need for physical rest. If we ignore God’s ways, we will suffer the natural consequences of our sinful decisions – whether that’s stress from being overloaded, relationship issues from ignoring our family, or financial issues from chronic laziness.

Rewards for Faithfulness

When they were called to give account, the good stewards in Jesus’s parables were rewarded (while the wicked stewards were punished). But notice what they were rewarded with:

In Matthew 24, the master responds to the good steward’s faithfulness by entrusting him with even more responsibility. (Matthew 24:47) In the Parable of the Minas, the master rewards the good stewards by entrusting them with even more. (Luke 19:17,19) In the Parable of the Talents, the master does the same. (Matthew 25:21,23)

The reward for faithfulness was greater areas of service. This has fascinating implications for what heaven will be like, as authors like Randy Alcorn have suggested in Heaven.

Let me clarify here: please do not think that our reward is earning any merit in God’s eyes. Our relationship to God is one of claiming the imputed righteousness of Christ. In other words – when God looks at us, He sees Christ. We are declared justified (right with God) because of faith in Christ. Jesus’s blood on the cross is the accomplishment that makes us right with God, not anything that we have done.

Back to the subject of being rewarded: I also believe there are earthly applications for the rewards that the stewards received. Consider these words from Jesus in Luke 16:10-12:

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”

Faithfulness in small matters leaves us open to being entrusted with greater responsibilities.

How many times have I prayed for God to increase my area of influence in ministry – while at the same time I’m ignoring other areas of my life that He wants me to change?

If my finances aren’t in order, if I’m not leading my family well, if I’m not being a good steward of my physical body – then how can I turn around and plead with God to bless my service in other areas?

If my longing is to participate someday in the leadership of my church, am I being faithful in the “smaller” areas of service that God has given me already?

His Working in Our Part

This may be deserving of another blog post (or a million), but allow me to conclude with this reminder.

We talk about obedience and living by the principles God has revealed to us. But let’s not forget that we can’t do that. In our own power, we can’t offer up a single speck of obedience.

This obedience will only come through the Holy Spirit working in us, daily making us more and more Christ-like. When looking at the responsibility of a steward, we can’t try to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps” and be obedient through sheer discipline and willpower. We need Christ working in us and through us.

And after beginning this series by talking about God’s gracious working through us as stewards, what a fitting way to conclude: God’s gracious working through us as stewards.

Checking Your Foundations:

– Do you judge your success as a steward by your accomplishments and results or by your faithfulness?
– Are you working every second remembering that you will give an account of your stewardship?
– In your inner motivations, are you being a good steward in order to earn any approval or salvation from God – or are you realizing that you are justified through faith in Christ alone?
– Are you being a faithful steward in all areas of your life?
– Do you wish for more effectiveness in one area while ignoring the stewardships that God has already given you?
– Are you trying to forge ahead on your own power – or are you humbly submitting to Christ’s working through you. Does your prayer life reflect this?

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