Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Weel Forty - Steward

 “And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?”  Genesis 15:2
One of the first laws of hermeneutics is the observance of first usage.  Here we read the first usage of the word “steward”.  The definition has a compound meaning.  On the one side the word means “son or child”.  Add the second side of the meaning, “inheritance or possession” and you get a better picture of what Abram was describing as the position of Eliezer.  He was the one in position to inherit Abram’s possessions because he was the only one in the position of “sonship”.  Abram was childless.
In this culture, the steward was a servant or right hand man.  He performed both the role of the child, when there was no heir, and also the role of the administrator of the master’s estate.  Though Eliezer may have been a good man, he was no substitute in the mind of Abram to the real flesh and blood son he had been promised.  So, Abram expresses his concern to the Lord.  If he and Sarai were to die, Eliezer, a man not even of his own people, would inherit his wealth.
It is believed that Eliezer is that same servant who was sent to find a wife for Isaac in Genesis 24.  He is called “the eldest servant…that ruled over all...he had.”  (Gen 24:2) As we read this account in Genesis 24 we can see six characteristics of Eliezer and characteristics we should also employ as a good steward. 
First, he is trustworthy.  He has his master’s confidence and is entrusted with his affairs.  We are also entrusted with the Gospel. 
Second, he is teachable.  Eliezer has learned from by the faith of Abram.  He seeks the wife according to the instruction given.  We are to be teachable and yielding to the commands of our Lord.
Third, he is tactical.  He knows how to use common sense and planning.  He makes a plan, commits it to the Lord, and waits for God to answer.  Our lives should also be tactically employed.
Fourth, he is timely in his manner.  He wants to expedite the matter, but he is also willing and wise to wait upon the Lord.  We, too, must use our time wisely and be ready to follow the Lord.
Fifth, he is true-hearted.  He does nothing to hinder Abram, not in the birth of the heir, or in the finding of a wife.  He has Abram’s best interest at heart, not his own agenda.  We need to be sincere in our service to the Lord.  Not self-seeking, but God honouring in all we do.
Sixth, he is tenacious.  He does not give up.  He sees things through.  We, too, as good stewards must be tenacious, thorough, and complete all God has given us to do.
What kind of steward are you?

 “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” 
I Corinthians 4:2
In the New Testament there is less of a family connection among stewards.  They no longer inherited the possessions at the death of the master.  The word has moved more into the meaning of a manager of a household or of the household affairs.  This meant especially the care of receipts and expenditures, the duty of caring for the other servants and even of the younger children.
God’s requirement is that the steward be faithful.  Spurgeon makes note that “It is not required that a man be found brilliant, or that he be found pleasing to his associates, or even that he be found successful”.  Faithfulness is a high enough demand.  The steward will need wisdom and strength that comes from the Lord in order to execute his office. 
The place of a steward is that basically of a servant.  He knows his place. The office requires faithful service in many different areas, even of managing other servants.  The mind of a servant must always direct the attitude of the steward.  The steward must be in communication with the Master to receive orders and to put forward requests and information.  He is also communicating so as to give account of the affairs and actions of the business as a good trustee of his master’s goods.  In all things the steward represents the master, especially in how he manages the family.  It is a high calling, and one the Lord has passed upon all who serve Him.
Spurgeon reminds us of things that would annul our faithfulness – 1) acting as if we were chiefs instead of servants, 2) acting as men-pleasers, 3) being idlers or triflers, 4) misusing our Master’s property, 5)  neglecting those in the family who are under us, 6) conniving with evil, and 7) forgetting that the Master is returning.
The reward for the faithful steward, that “well done thou good and faithful servant”, is reserved for those who know their place and execute it with faithful attention.
How are you doing in your stewardship?  Do you recognize the things God has placed under your supervision?  Do you serve with the idea of giving account to the Lord?  Is your attitude that of a good servant? Are you faithful?
 And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household….?”  Luke 12:42
It isn’t by coincidence that the adjectives “faithful” and “wise” precede the word “steward”.  These two qualities are so vital to our success as stewards.  As a steward goes about doing what his master has directed, he must be faithful and wise.
To be faithful in stewardship is more than just turning up each day for the job.  A faithful steward is one that can be depended upon to complete a task to an expected standard.  A faithful steward will also be consistent in his service. He will not be haphazard or slothful. 

A wise steward is one who knows how to make best use of the equipment or facilities given him.  He is circumspect and thoughtful in all he does.  He does not waste time, money or effort.  He is purposeful in his service doing all he can to make the master’s business successful. 

Stewards who are both faithful and wise are of great value to the master.  They are the type of employees that every employer hopes to hire.  They are the individuals who honestly earn their wages and increase the income of the company because of their good work ethics and high standards.  They will be rewarded.

The parable applies not only to work ethics, but also to us as the Lord’s servants or stewards.  We, too, as servants of Christ, are to be serving faithfully and with wisdom.  There is a reward coming for those who serve in such a manner.
Are you serving faithfully and with wisdom?  Are you a good employee?  Are you dependable and trustworthy? 
 “…There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.  And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee?  Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.”  Luke 16:1 & 2
Here we see a steward being called into account for his stewardship.  He is accused of wasting the rich man’s goods.  He must explain the accusation and is at risk of losing his position.  This is a very interesting parable, but we aren’t going to consider the whole of the story, just this first two verses so we don’t get bogged down and miss the main point: We will all be called to give account of our lives.
Whatever we have is the property of God.  We are only stewards.  Whether we are considering our houses, our money, our family, our jobs, or, the God given natural resources of this earth, all are for our wise usage.  We are responsible to God.
Wasted time, wasted money, and wasted opportunities – we are all guilty.  God has given us “all things” for His glory and we are to understand the value of His good gifts.
We will not lose our salvation due to our unwise use of resources, but we are in danger of losing rewards.  I Corinthians 3:12-15 teaches that when our works for Christ are tested by fire we will be rewarded for what remains.  Those that are lost in the fire result in a loss of reward, but we do not lose our salvation.
It challenges us to think about what we are doing with all God has entrusted to us.  Do we value our time, funds, health, family, etc?  Do we waste opportunities for service and witness?  Do we squander our talents on the world and waste our abilities in worldly pursuits? 
So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”  Romans 14:12   How would you fare if you were called into account today?

 “For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God…”  Titus 1:7
Being a faithful and wise steward might seem like a reasonable standard, but being blameless?  The definition of blameless is “that cannot be called into to account, unreproveable,  or unaccused.”  That is a really high standard.  It is the standard God sets for his men – those who serve in the capacity of spiritual leadership.
The passage goes on to describe character qualities that would be indicative of a steward of God.  “…not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word…able by sound doctrine exhort and to convince…”  Titus 1:7-9
Now, lest we cut ourselves some slack thinking that since we aren’t the preacher we don’t have to be so “blameless”, I challenge you to recognize that you are a priest as well.  I Peter 2:9 confirms this fact.  “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation….”  So, when you were placed into this priesthood by salvation a certain standard of conduct was also set for you.
If you don’t believe me just ask your friends if they think any of the negative things listed in the Titus passage are acceptable for people who say they are Christians.  The world holds higher expectations for the children of God as well.  They expect us to be friendly and hospitable, to be kind and loving, to be temperate and fair.  They even expect us to know the Bible answers to their questions.
So how are you doing?  Are you striving to live a blameless life?  Or do you see yourself as good as any other old Joe?  Do you rebel at the thought of meeting a standard – even God’s standard?  How are you doing as at being a blameless steward?

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