Listen to this story:
Stewards should live as witnesses of the Creator God that they serve. They should be a powerful influence on those around them, an influence that motivates them to do well. For stewards to have a positive influence, they must live a godly life. For Godliness is the evidence of true religion. Godliness “is gain in not one but two worlds, for it has value for the present world and the world to come."1 The apostle Paul directs the life of the faithful steward to be aware at the same time to avoid those who are:
- lovers of themselves, instead of loving others,
- lovers of money, instead of loving higher things,
- boastful, of what they possess and think they know,
- proud, which makes them look down on others,
- abusive, rather than sympathetic,
- disobedient to their parents, instead of honoring them, as God commands,
- ungrateful, rather than naturally thankful,
- unholy, or wicked.
It is a horrendous list of evil and unnatural attitudes and reactions. Paul goes on (3-5). People will be:
- without love, which is a natural human affection,
- unforgiving, because they are opposed to mercy,
- slanderous, insensitive to the reputation of others,
- without self-control, or any kind of moral self-discipline,
- brutal, unfeeling about the pain of others,
- not lovers of the good, because their natural affections are fixed on evil objects.
- treacherous, unable to be trusted,
- rash, rushing headlong into ill-considered plans,
- conceited, puffed up with their own imaginary importance,
- lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, because their hearts are set on the enjoyment of this world only,
- having a form of godliness but denying its power, since their religion is built on feeling rather than on faith.2
Therefore, stewardship focuses on the godly life of the people or, as the author puts it, “they are godly, and this godliness is revealed in how they live, in how they handle the things that their God has entrusted them with.” (150). It should be noted that godliness is no way related to finances. But rather godliness is embodied in contentment (1 Tim 6:6). The gain of godliness is godliness itself. And with it comes “contentment."3 The concept of contentment was very highly popular amongst the Stoics who interpreted it as meaning self-sufficiency, “the ability to rely on one’s own inner resources."4 For the apostle, Paul contentment does not mean self-sufficiency, but Christ-sufficiency (see Phil 4:11-13).
J. Paul Getty, one of the richest men in the world, was asked what single thing he would change if he had the power, and he replied, “I’d change philosophy. People should be more content. The way to cure discontent is not necessarily to get more. … The old cliché about money not buying happiness is certainly true."5
People who are unhappy always look for something to make them happy. I once read a story about a king who was suffering from a mysterious malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man was brought for him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom looking for such a person, and after a long search, they found a man who was really happy. But he did not even possess a shirt.6 So, contentment is not so much about the circumstances of individuals, but about the attitudes of persons towards their circumstances.
The words of Ellen G. White seem to fit well regarding how man is supposed to live and render a consecrated service to God. She states,
Ministers cannot do acceptable work for God and at the same time carry the burden of large personal business enterprises. Such a division of interest dims their spiritual perception. The mind and heart are occupied with earthly things, and the service of Christ takes a second place. They seek to shape their work for God by their circumstances, instead of shaping circumstances to meet the demands of God.7
The slogan of a good steward is to trust in the God of Israel with all his heart (Prov 3:5). The word translated trust comes from the Hebrew word bāṭaḥ, which means “trust in,” “feel safe,” and “be confident."8 The word expresses the “feeling of safety and security that is felt when one can rely on someone or something else."9 Thus, the word conveys God as the “supreme object of trust, and some of the things in which people put their trust are substitutes for God, however naturally worthy of trust they may appear to be in themselves.” The word has a “connection between trust and deliverance."10 A good story that brings the motto of trust and divine deliverance is found in the story of King Hezekiah and the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem. It is written about Hezekiah that he “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Kings 18:5a).
White comments on the trust the apostles portrayed, she said:
They were by nature as weak and helpless as any of those now engaged in the work, but they put their whole trust in the Lord. Wealth they had, but it consisted of mind and soul culture; and this every one may have who will make God first and last and best in everything.11
Stewardship is not as concerned about a person’s possessions as it is about the families, the communities, the world, and the universe in which one lives (1 Cor 4:9). In other words, it is about being influential in our different professions. With regard to influence, I like the words of Joe D. Batten and Leonard C. Hudson when they said,
My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done;
Leave countless marks for good or ill, ere sets the evening sun.
This is the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray:
Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way.12
That is to me the essence of stewardship; stewardship of influence is the hard part of stewardship as Henry Louis Gates Jr. commented.13 For it incorporates even the way one speaks, teaches, trains, encourages, and being compassionate. It was Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), the British statesman and novelist, who said, “Give me a man who is weak, and I will help him become strong, through letting him talk and through talking with him.” The apostle Matthew said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). These words serve as an admonition for us.
The reward and the result of the good steward include the words, “Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master” (Matt 25:21, NAS). May we always remember that this is the goal of practicing informed and skilled consumerism—to be found faithful stewards who can enter into the joy of our Master.
Some of us remember the bitter conflict between Russia and Finland in 1939. At last, Finnish officials ordered the evacuation of their beloved homeland, including that of an old lady living alone. She had only a few hours to gather together her belongings. She was also told that to prevent the house from falling into Russian hands, it would be burned when she left. When the soldiers returned to pick up the dear soul, she was on her knees scrubbing the floor. Being astonished, they asked: “Mother, did you not understand we must burn your home?”
“Yes,” she said, “but if I must give it to my country, I want it to be the best I have to give.
Therefore, stewards should be admonished to give God, “The Best I Have” as mentioned in the above story. Stewardship of godliness, contentment, trust, influence, and the reward it involves the attention on a life lived in which two commandments are in view: a vertical love for God and a horizontal love for man.
Notes & References:
Robert Black and Ronald McClung, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon: A Commentary for Bible Students (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan, 2004), 116.
Douglas J.W. Milne, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus (Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1996), 159.
Gary W. Demarest and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1, 2 Thessalonians / 1, 2 Timothy / Titus, The Preacher's Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1984), 32:223.
Samuel Ngewa, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids, MI: HippoBooks, 2009), 152.
Washington Star, “Content,” in Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers, ed. Paul Lee Tan (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, 1996).
Michael P. Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000), 80.
Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1911), 366.
John N. Oswalt, “בָּטַח,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT), ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 101.
Warren Baker, ed. “בָּטַח,” The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament(CWSD) (Chattanooga, TN: AMG, 2003), 1128.
R. W. L. Moberly, “בָּטַח,” The New International Dictionary of the Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE), ed. Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 1:645.
Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1948), 25.
Joe D. Batten, Leonard C. Hudson, Dare to Live Passionately (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2003), 199.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., Finding Your Roots: The Official Companion to the PBS Series (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2014), 100.
This article was written by Youssry Guirguis. Photo by Michael Frattaroli on Unsplash.
We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.