The concept of stewardship has become a common in most Christian circles, but often it is viewed in a limited manner or merely as a passive affair neglecting the full Biblical sense of stewardship. The Lord has granted His servants the stewardship of the earth and has charged His people to subdue it. The realization and application of our God-given role and responsibility will be both fulfilling and world changing. In order to fulfill our role as good stewards of the earth, it is helpful to understand the nature, increase, and goal of stewardship.
The Nature of Stewardship
A steward can be defined as, "A kind of chief slave who superintended the household and even the whole property of his master…[he] can also be sometimes the child or son of the house." A Christian steward, then, has been given charge over that which the Lord has providentially placed under his authority and influence. This stewardship extends over all aspects of the believer's life.
It is important to consider Christian stewardship in the Biblical context in which it is found. First, Everything that exists was created by, belongs to, and remains under the sovereign control of Almighty God. Psalm 24:1 states, "The earth is the Lord's and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell on it." Every resource there is belongs to the Lord. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, every individual is at His disposal to do with as He pleases, and every detail is in His sovereign control. Second, the Lord was pleased to delegate stewardship of the earth to man. In Genesis 1:26-8, mankind is charged with the privilege and responsibility of taking dominion of the earth. Thus man is responsible to subdue everything within his own providential context to the Lord. This stewardship includes relationships, children, resources/finances, and abilities. Moreover, there is no reason for inserting an artificial distinction between the "spiritual and the physical" because every aspect of the believer's existence is under the authority of God. Third, stewardship is not an autonomous license, but rather, is a prescription of theonomic rule. All creatures must obediently submit to the law of Christ. The disobedient and the rebellious are held responsible for their actions and their condemnation is sure and just. The theonomic rule of Christ extends throughout the earth and the obligation to obey extends to every individual from slave to king.
The Increase of Stewardship
Because of the nature of theonomic rule, the stewardship of man is either under the blessing or curse of God. As the servants of the Lord submit to His law and implement it in every sphere of life, the blessing of the Lord will reside on that endeavor and it will prove successful. Faithful stewardship will result in increase and, therefore, the spread of Christ's dominion. On the contrary, those who handle their stewardship in disobedience are under the curse of the Lord, and the displeasure of the Almighty will surely manifest itself in the life and the endeavors of the wicked. Also, there is a correlation between the increase of responsibility and the increase of stewardship and dominion. The more an individual takes responsibility for, the more authority, influence, and control he has over that endeavor. Therefore, the spread of responsibility among faithful Christian stewards amounts to the spread of the dominion of Christ.
In the gospel of Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells the parable of a master who entrusts each of his servants with an allotted amount according to their ability. Although there is a wealth of information to be gained from this text, space will only allow the considerations of the following three points.
First, the parable reveals three reasons for failing to increase stewardship:
Christ said that the unfaithful servant took what had been entrusted to him and buried it in the ground because he was afraid. Fear can be a factor in the decisions believers make in their endeavors to increase the Kingdom. For example, additional responsibilities at work can mean leaving one's comfort zone and the necessity of learning new skills. It can also mean an adjustment of schedules and or location. The servant of Christ should wisely consider any endeavor before accepting it; however, once it is determined that it is a good and godly increase, then it should be pursued with diligence and confidence. Proverbs 28 states, "The wicked flee when no one pursues but the righteous are as bold as a lion."
Christ said that the judgment of the master, upon discovering that the servant had not increased what was entrusted to him, was to declare the servant lazy and, consequently, wicked. There appears to be something within our fallen nature that acclimates toward the easiest path in life, even when there is much to be gained through other means. Laziness can act like a cancerous tumor in the life of the Christian servant eating away at his victorious life. Remember that the lazy way and the easy way is often the way that leads to the empty and unrewarding way.
Christ said that, in contrast to the unfaithful servant, the faithful servant was willing to serve in the "little things." Pride can sometimes stand in the way of our success in subduing the earth because we are deceived into thinking that if we had the opportunity to serve in a loftier position, we could really affect change. However, the truth is that if we fail to cause increase in our present providential context there is no reason for thinking that we would act otherwise in another. In humility serve the Lord to your full capacity where you providentially find yourself currently. As you are faithful in this, you can expect to move up to other things. Meditate on the words of the Master, "You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things."
Second, the parable reveals that wisdom is required for increasing the stewardship. The master upon his return rebuked the unfaithful servant for his lack of wisdom saying that he should have at least put his money in the bank so that he would have at least received interest on the money. Very often failure in regard to stewardship is due to a lack of wisdom. The Christian steward should not be limited in his view but instead should have the overall success and progress of the Kingdom in mind. For example, the goal is not to merely get Congress to pass a law in accord with Christian principles, the goal is to subdue every aspect of government with Christian representatives and influence so that Congress can do nothing else but pass laws that are God-honoring. As was mentioned above, by being faithful in the "little things" the Lord will entrust His people with more. Instead of aspiring to the highest offices primarily, Christ's servants must learn to be faithful in their own homes and communities. When that foundation is fixed upon the theonomic rule of Christ, the higher offices will naturally follow until all the land is under the control of the risen King.
Third, the parable reveals that there are rewards for faithful stewardship. The road to faithful stewardship is not always an easy one. There may to be struggles along the way but the victory is certain. The Lord will have dominion over the earth and the gates of hell itself cannot stop the forward march of the Christian church. Moreover, there is great blessing in obedience and an expectation of future reward. The faithful steward looks forward to hearing the praise of the Master, "Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your Master."
The Goal of Stewardship
The goal of Christian stewardship is to glorify the Master and through this to enjoy Him. There can be no greater satisfaction than to fulfill your role as a steward and be found to be a faithful servant of the great King and live in His presence forever. To honor the Master the steward is required to handle the estate in a manner that pleases Him. First, submission to the Lord is essential. There is no room for autonomous stewards who take the estate of the Lord and deny their Master by establishing their own rules rather than spreading the order and liberty contained in the law of God. Second, the establishment of a lasting rule should be pursued. Often the believer follows cultural norms of putting too much emphasis on the "quick fix" instead of the long term control of the Master. For example, many would like to see a Christian leader raised up to the highest office without first establishing a Christian context, by which, that leader can be successful. The dominion of Christ is built on the a rock solid foundation of truth that will never be shaken. As each Christian takes his role as a Christian steward seriously and subdues his providential context for Christ, the ensuing result will be an increase in dominion under the covenantal blessing. Third, the Christian steward should settle for nothing less than total victory. The faithful steward will not stop until the cultural mandate is complete and every knee has bent before the Lord. The believer should consider himself a soldier who has been posted in his providential context by Christ. As such, he should pursue the subjection of everything under his authority and influence. The Mountain, of which Christ's Kingdom is likened, that will grow to cover the entire earth consists of such faithful stones as these.