Article: STEWARDSHIP-A SYMBOL OF CHRISTIANITY | Jacob Varghese

According to John Henry Westerhoff III, “Stewardship is nothing less than a complete life style, a total accountability and responsibility before God”. Stewardship is what we do after we say we believe, that is after we give our love, loyalty, and trust to God, from whom each and every aspect of our lives comes as a gift”. In the common understanding, a steward is an employee or a servant whom an owner puts in charge of his business or affairs. Steward is a person paid to manage another’s estate, house or property. Stewardship is the management and accountability for something that belongs to someone else. The master knows and really trusts his steward. He is sure that he will manage his affairs well, even when he is out of sight. The steward has considerable scope for managing and making imaginative decisions on his own- but with one provision that he will keep always his master’s interest in mind. The steward accepts the fact that he is not the owner of the undertaking and that he is never likely to be, in the normal course of events. The steward’s charge may be only temporary, but he takes care of it as if he were the owner himself; such is his loyalty to his master. When we read Genesis 39, we can see a clear picture of what a good steward is like. We will find the interesting story of Joseph who acted as a steward in the house of Potipher in Egypt. His master left everything in his care and he managed well. When Potipher’s wife tried to seduce him, he could not even think of giving in to that temptation because he knew his master fully trusted him. As Christians we can say we are God’s stewards. The world and our life in it belong to God who created us. He is our sovereign Lord and every thing we have finally come from Him. Just as a steward is accountable to his master for all the things he has been put in charge of, so the Christian steward is accountable to God for the life and gifts he has been given. We need to Glorify God by using all the gifts and resources God has given us so that the kingdom of God is established.

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When God sent His son in to the world he came not as the owner but in the form of a servant or steward. We can say that Jesus is God’s chief steward and that we participate in His stewardship. Some people seem to have the idea that stewardship is primarily about money. And, of course, stewardship is about money. Money may be the most powerful symbol in our lives. That is why we have such passion about it. How we use it is clearly related to the health of our souls. But stewardship is much deeper than money; it is all about living life in response to God’s love. There is nothing virtuous about poverty. Even the poorest of the poor are God’s stewards entrusted with His gifts. There is nothing wrong with making money. The ability to be generous comes from having something to be generous with. But the end goal has to be something more than the money itself, or else there is inevitable emptiness to it. To whom does our money belong? In the true sense it is not our money, but God’s. Let us not forget that our money like everything else we have, belong to God. We are only stewards or managers of it. Management of business and finances are really stewardship under the Lordship of Christ. The longest journey begins with a single step. So, it is with stewardship, which begins with our commitment to God and all that we do then flows from that act. In that sense, stewardship is deliberate and intentional. It is the understanding that we are part of God’s creation, and compelled to care for all of His creation. In this sense, we are called to be good stewards of all of the gifts that have been given to us both as a global family that cares for the earth, and the people on it, as a nation, community, family, and as individuals. This includes our health, our talents, our property and our families. Stewardship is not separate from it; it is a part of our obligation and joy of Christian life. Faithfulness and wisdom are the two main pre-requisites of stewardship as taught by our Lord. The world asks what does a man own, but Christ asks how does he use it? The world looks at the money and its quantity. Christ looks at the man and his motive. The world looks at the gift; Christ asks whether the gift was a sacrifice. The widow’s gift won the heart of Christ and His approval. Lots of people worship money, they love the good things it can buy and the good times it can give. If you have plenty of money you are regarded as successful, and others look up to you. It protects you from hardship, gets you out of trouble, and makes life easier and more enjoyable for yourself and your family. But everything we are, and everything we have, comes from God. So the way we use our money and share our possessions should be a reflection of God’s own love and generosity to all people. God has given us the whole of creation to enjoy, but it is for the common good. So Christians cannot sit complacently on wealth. Once we have enough for our daily needs, we must look to share with those who are less fortunate. The giving of money is not primarily to balance the books, but resource our God given mission. The giving of money to resource the mission is the concern mainly of the ‘household of faith’, those committed to God’s Mission. We should also remember that our giving should also be thankful, responsive to God’s gifts, regular, proportionate, obedient, and cheerful.

It is also an expression of our discipleship. Christian Stewardship may be defined as the response which we, as a church, collectively and individually, are called to make to God for all that; He has given us and done for us. In this response, we worship God with praise and thankfulness; treat the earth and its resources as God’s provision for the needs of all people and regard our lives, powers and possessions as gifts from God to be enjoyed and used in His service. In practical terms this means regarding our money and material possessions as a trust from God, to be used for His work in the world. What we do with our money says a lot about us and our priorities in life. Stewardship involves the dividing of the resources proportionate to the need. Joseph, who was a steward of Pharaoh’s lands, carefully distributed the grain for seven famine years and for the years thereafter for the whole land of Egypt. Let us look at the story of the Good Samaritan to see how he used his gifts in service to his neighbor, to fulfill God’s commands. We are told in the story that robbers attacked a man on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho and left him half dead on the roadside. A priest and a Levite passed him by but a Samaritan used all the resources he had to help him. First he used his courage, risking his life in stopping on a lonely part of the road; then he got down to practical matters. He used his knowledge of first aid and dressed his wounds; he then put him on his own donkey and walked by his side till he got to an inn where he could find help and shelter. He looked after the man for that day (spent time) and then delegated the responsibility to the innkeeper, paying him for his trouble. Yes, money did come in use, but only after the Samaritan had used his all other resources. The Good Samaritan helped his neighbor in a lonely place where there was no one to witness or praise his good deeds. He did it simply out of compassion and love. This is how our stewardship should be fulfilled not so that we may be praised. But in all things God may be praised.

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We too should learn how to make proper use of our money and material possessions. We should never have the worldly craving for money but we can use the world’s techniques for proper use of money and material possessions for the glory of God. Money given to evangelism and other Christian work will then be seen to have been an instrument paying enormous and eternal dividends. The way we use our money is a test of our ability to use our spiritual gifts. Jesus asks two questions to us in this point of our stewardship. First one, if we are unfit in the way we use an ordinary thing like money, how can we expect God to entrust us with true riches? Second is everything we handle here on earth is really someone else’s property and if we handle these things badly, how can we expect to receive the everlasting riches promised to faithful stewards? At the end I have some thing for you to ponder, and pray over- If God, not you, owns your money and your time, how might that fact change your daily life? Stewardship can be defined as all that I do with all that I have at all the time.

JACOB VARGHESE

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