Last Sunday, we observed the anniversary of Jesus' resurrection. Today, we will resume our study of the book of Titus, in which we are currently examining the qualifications of elders. As we begin verse seven, Paul writes,
Titus 1:7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed...
What is a steward? A steward is someone who is given a duty, a trust. It is someone who manages and takes care of a business, a home, or something valuable.
Luke 12:42 ..."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?"
In this case, the steward was in charge of the servants, being responsible for giving them their rations. And this is a dead-on description of stewardship - being entrusted with the duty of distribution.
In fact, the Greek word for steward illustrates that exactly. You see, the word "steward" in Greek is "oy-kon-OM-os." This word comes from "OY-kos," meaning "house," and "NOM-os," which comes from a word meaning "to parcel out." Thus, stewardship is the concept of being given something for the purpose of distributing it out for other people's benefit.
As Christians, we are stewards. We've been given stewardship of many things: our talents and time, our money and resources. The list certainly goes on. You can take anything God has given to us and see biblically that it is for the purpose of benefitting others.
- The gifts God has given us are to be used to benefit other people.
1Pet. 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
- Our time and energy are to be spent serving others instead of ourselves.
Rom. 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor
- God gives us money to provide for others' needs:
2Cor. 8:14 ...your abundance being a supply for their need...
- God gives us resources with the expectation that it will lead to distribution:
Luke 3:11 ..."The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise."
That's tough for many people. We think, "What's mine is mine. I earned it, I deserve it, there's no free rides, there's no free lunch. Besides, I need both coats - the brown one and the black one, so my outfits will match."
Truth be told, when we're given something, we have a choice of selfishly keeping it, or distributing it the way it was intended by God, the real Owner of everything.
James had met far too many selfish Christians - those that thought their own needs were all that mattered. He said,
James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?"
He called that kind of Christian faith a dead faith, a useless faith. That's why here in Titus, Paul contrasts good stewardship against being self-willed, and why we are commanded to...
Phil. 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not (merely) look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
And it's not just with stuff and money. Our very lives are a stewardship that God has given TO us that are not FOR us. The Scriptures say,
2Cor. 5:15 He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
No longer even living for ourselves. Life itself has been given to us as a stewardship - not to hold onto our lives selfishly, but to give our lives for the service of Christ.
This is what Paul meant when he said that elders are God's stewards. Not they are in charge of God, but rather that He has left them in charge of the task of distributing HIS things, including THEIR lives.
Paul knew this. He told the Colossians,
Col. 1:25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit...
"The stewardship of MY life is to be in ministry for YOUR benefit." Paul knew that the stewardship from God was given to him not for HIS benefit, but for THEIRS.
And when we keep that in mind, it becomes understandable to us why the stewardship mentioned most often in the New Testament is the stewardship of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthians,
1Cor. 4:1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
We are stewards of the mysteries of God, entrusted with the task of distributing them. In other words, we've been given the gospel for the purpose of distributing the gospel.
Col. 1:25 ...I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God...
Our stewardship is to reveal the mystery of the gospel by preaching the Word of God to those who do not know it. This stewardship is not suggested - it's commanded.
1Cor. 9:16-17 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.
This stewardship of preaching the gospel has been entrusted to us. This great mystery has been given to us so that we in turn will give it to others.