Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 30, 1961
NUMBER 30, PAGE 3,11a

The Stewardship Of Life

Jesse M. Kelley, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Several months ago we began a study of Stewardship through the pages of this journal. Due to some pressing problems of a personal nature it was necessary to discontinue that study temporarily. We are now ready to continue the subject to its end.

Due to the fact that several months have elapsed since the first two installments of the series, we deem it necessary to go back and briefly review the ground we have already covered so that the readers' minds may be refreshed as to the major points already made.

No. 1. The definition of the term steward is "A person entrusted with the management of estates or affairs not his own; one who manages or disburses for another." In the light of this definition the Christian is entrusted with goods belonging to God, and is responsible for their use.

No. 2. God's ownership must not only be recognized, but acknowledged by the use that is made of his goods. We acknowledge such ownership by the use of what is in our possession in accordance with the will of God.

No. 3. "Legal ownership" is that which is recognized in the world of human relations, and gives the person the right to certain possessions by reason of a legal title. This kind of ownership is subject to restrictions.

No. 4. "Absolute ownership" is that which belongs to God and is not subject to restrictions or exceptions.

No. 5. Finally, we have emphasized the fact that Stewardship involves the entire life of the individual — everything that inheres in or belongs to the life. All belong to God by virtue of the fact that we have voluntarily given ourselves into his cause and service. We were not compelled by arbitrary power to do so against our wills, but acting upon our own volition we took upon ourselves the responsibility of stewards. With these points in mind we now direct our readers' attention to a continuation of our study.

The passages in the Bible that relate to stewardship are too numerous to detail, or even quote in this series. But beginning at Matthew 20, followed by many other passages as to what it is, the reader is impressed with the largeness, the opportunity and the responsibility of a steward of God. We will here set forth the different passages for the benefit of those who will want to read what the New Testament says about the steward. You will profit by reading them. Matthew 20:8; Luke 12:42; 16:1-3; Titus 1:7; I Cor. 4:1-2; and 1 Peter 4:10.

Note particularly in reading these passages that the office of the steward is so full of personal opportunity and responsibility, that the holder of God's property has every chance to abuse the trust confided in him. The owner is absent and has left his property and all his interests in the hands of his steward. He can use, or refuse to use his Lord's property; he has the opportunity, if he so desires, to misuse and prostitute the Lord's goods to Ms own base purposes. But in view of this fact, it is emphasized that the steward must render an account of his stewardship at some time.

At this point it is wise to remember what has been pointed out previously: that the steward is not a slave who, in the hands of a being more powerful, is forced to do the will of the Owner. He is a child of God; love for God-motivated him to voluntarily take upon himself the responsibilities of stewardship. Though divine law was involved, yet, it was love that brought us to the place where we surrendered ourselves to the will of God. It is love that God relies upon and which we rely upon to make us good stewards of God. It is voluntary obedience motivated by love and not slavish fear that must undergird all our stewardship.

In Gen. 28:20-22 we have an example of the kind of dedication necessary to be a faithful steward of God. "And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on; so that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God; and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house; and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee'."

It was not law alone that compelled Jacob to take this view; it was his faith in God, and his love for his Keeper which moved him to take it and fulfill it. There are too many in the church of the Lord that are driven to a form of obedience and service by their fear of going to hell. This is the reason we have so many in the church that cannot be depended on. Jacob vowed his vow because of his love and gratitude, not because he was afraid of God.

We need to be constantly reminded that Christianity is a positive religion. Mere lip service will not suffice. The religion of Christ is not a mere set of formalities or legal rules to which one adheres; it is not a ceremonial religion. It is rather, a way of life in which is made a constant acknowledgment to God of all that inheres in the life of the steward. Such acknowledgment is motivated by the steward's love and gratitude for the blessings of salvation. It is a reciprocal love. "We love him because he first loved us." The natural result of such acknowledgment is an adequate stewardship.

In the remaining part of this third installment we desire to set forth briefly some of the characteristics of such stewardship.

An adequate stewardship is first characterized by faithfulness. "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful." (I Cor. 4:2) The value of a constant recognition and practice of Christianity is very great Faithfulness relates to every facet of Christianity both public and private. To simply worship God on the Lord's day, while all the rest of the time and entity is given to the pursuit of one's own pleasure or will is dangerously close to hypocrisy; and it is dangerous to the spiritual life of the soul. The faithful steward does not administer his stewardship upon the basis of his "own likes and dislikes: What he "pays out" is not to be paid where he wills, but where God wills. It is given to God, not to the preacher nor the elders. Whether we like or dislike the man is of no consequence. The will of God must be recognized and acknowledged in our action: It should 'also be emphasized that the steward does not serve in accordance with the will of God, then like the Pullman porter expect a tip for himself. Supporting God's kingdom by the utilization of socials, suppers, and "fellowships" is an outrage to every principle of Christian stewardship. The good steward of God gives because it is God's will; he cannot be bribed to do that will by getting things for himself, such as amusement, food, or "fellowship." There is only one way to produce money for God's purposes and that is when, as a direct act of worship, the steward puts his money on God's altar. There is likewise only one way to participate in true fellowship, and that is with the saints in the worship and service of God. A person that must be bribed into a period of "fellowship" with a cup of coffee and a donut is a mighty shallow individual, and those who do the bribing either do not know true stewardship, or do not care.

Next, a competent stewardship will primarily concern itself with methods of acquisition. Please keep in mind that stewardship relates to all departments of life. One cannot worship God acceptably on the Lord's day if the rest of his life is out of balance with the principles of stewardship. He cannot give God money that is tainted by fraud in its acquisition. Spiritual relationship with God cannot exist if moral relationship — relationship of man to man is fraudulent. God will not have tainted money — or service.

But an adequate stewardship is characterized not alone by its methods of acquisition, but by the use made of what is acquired. The place of deposit will help to determine the ultimate value of the treasure. If one treasure is used for the fulfillment of the purposes of God then treasures are laid up in heaven. But if the treasure has only earthly places of deposit then it will decay and turn to dust with its possessor. (Matt. 6:19-21)

Finally, the all-inclusiveness of stewardship is proof of its faithfulness. One does not render an adequate stewardship by just the giving of his money. One does not make a home when he simply pays an installment upon a house. It takes love, a wife, children, and even some furniture in the house before it becomes a home. We are stewards of our personality as well as our possessions. All that has been said concerning our possessions is equally true of our personality. They all must enter into our stewardship; God is to have the first fruits of all our increase. So the stewarding of money will not allow us to rob God of time and energy. An adequate stewardship will concern itself with giving God the first fruits of time, talents, energy, and possessions.