We are encouraged to live for the glory of God by the tremendous privileges which are ours through His grace. We are also spurred on to greater things for God when stress is placed upon our responsibilities. Soon we are all to stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of our life work. A New Testament theme which emphasizes our present responsibilities to our Lord in the light of that coming day of review is that of Stewardship.

The Word most frequently translated “steward" in the New Testament (pikonomos) is a compound one, made up of two words meaning “to manage (nemo) a house (pikos)”. The “steward" was a manager of an estate or household, an administrator of the property of another, while “stewardship" refers to the office of the steward, the responsibility of management or administration of another’s property.

We read of one Erastus, “the chamberlain of the city”, in Romans 16.23. We would speak of him as the city “treasurer’ today, though the word actually used is “steward”. This Christian gentleman’s honourable secular profession involved the collection and oversight of the city funds at Corinth. In the New Testament times, the more well-to-do families placed the heir under tutors and governors (the same word as is translated “stewards" elsewhere) until the time appointed of the father, Gal. 4.2. Here the steward was the senior slave or domestic, who was responsible for caring for the heir until he was of age. In these two instances of the literal use of the word “steward”, both the control of property and the care of persons are shown to lie within the scope of the steward’s responsibilities. The head of the house might entrust to him the care of receipts and expenditures, and the duty of dealing out the proper portion to all his servants. He could be charged with the provisioning of the household, and in some cases had unrestricted access to his master’s possessions. His office involved the use of his master’s resources, Luke 16.12, and he was responsible directly to his master for his administration of that which had been committed to him, w. 1-2.

For the steward, however, there were two relationships involved. We have already noted his responsibility to his lord. He was as a slave under his lord, Luke 12.42, a minister (lit. an under-rower), 1 Cor. 4.1, and as such he was answerable to his lord, Luke 16.1; 1 Cor. 4.2. But the office also involved a relationship to those with whom the steward dealt in his lord’s name. To these he might be as a master over other slaves, Luke 16.1, or an overseer over the rest of the household, 12.42-43, or even as a tutor/guardian for the family heir, Gal. 4.2. To fail those over whom he was set, was to fail the lord who had given him his place.

The New Testament occurrences of the words (variously translated are: Luke 12.42; 16.1, 2 (twice), 3 (twice), 4.8; Rom. 16.23; 1 Cor. 4.1,2; 9.17; Gal. 4.2; Eph. 1.10; 3.2,9 R.v.; Col. 1.25; 1 Tim. 1.4; Titus 1.7; 1 Pet. 4.10.

The New Testament use of the word was in some ways anticipated by the Greek translators of the Old Testament. It is used in its literal and official sense quite often. We read of those who are “over the household”, I Kings 4.6; 2 Kings 18.18,37; x9-2i -cf- Isa. 36.3, 22; 37.2, of one who is the “steward of his house”, 1 Kings 16.9, and of the “officers of his house”, Esther 1.8. Though the particular word is not used in the context, Joseph’s position in Potiphar’s house provides us with a clear illustration of what is involved in a secular sphere of responsibility. Potiphar “made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured”. Gen. 39.4-6. An even greater responsibility, and one involving tremendous spiritual de-mands, was given to Moses by God. The Lord said of him, “My servant Moses … who is faithful in all mine house”, Num. 12.7; cf. Heb. 3.1-6. Both of these worthies served God and their generation.

To be concluded


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