Stewardship

Stewardship is a New Testament doctrine governing benevolence, and stands in sharp contrast to the Old Testament plan of tithing while equally differentiated from mere random giving. The doctrine of stewardship directs a Christian in matters of receiving, earning, and spending. It is an essential outworking of the principles of grace in contrast to those of law. Grace begets a family relationship in which all that is done by God to His child or by the child to God will be motivated only by love. The elements of bargain and trade, earnings and wages, or supposed just dues in return for service, are excluded when love constitutes the sole motive. The subject may be divided then as follows:

1. Three Greek Words. Bond servants in the Grecian home might be honored with high responsibilities, but they were never free from slavery, nor did they ever possess anything of their own. Three New Testament words for servant responsibility are:

a. naiSaywyoq (Gal. 3:24-25). This was a slave charged, not with the education, but the training and discipline of children of his master.

b. emtpoTOq (Matt. 20:8; Luke 8:3; Gal. 4:2); compare emoKonoq (Acts 20:28), a slave charged with the oversight of all his master's estate.

c. okovo^ia (Luke 16:2-4; cf. dispensation in 1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). Compare also, okovo^oq (Luke 12:42; 16:1, 3, 8; Rom. 16:23; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Gal. 4:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:10), a slave charged with the pecuniary affairs of his master.

There were stewards in the Old Testament (Gen. 15:2), but these did not represent the ideal of Old Testament benevolence (Gen. 24:2; 39:4). The tither of the Old Testament, having paid his tenth, was in sole authority over the remaining nine-tenths. The child of God under grace is a bondslave dispensing his Master's goods—"Ye are not your own" and "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7; 6:19-20; 1 Pet. 1:18).

2. The Divine Example.

b. the son (John 6:32-33; 10:28; 15:13; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 8:2). Never is the divine giving an example of tithing or partial giving.

3. New Testament Giving. Christ gave unstintingly (2 Cor. 8:9). The believer should be generous in the same way (2 Cor. 9:8). Such giving should be wrought by the Spirit, not legally or out of necessity — "for God loveth a cheerful [Greek, 'hilarious'] giver" (vs. 7). This is not difficult to do when it has been accepted and realized that all money is His and that the steward but administers the financial affairs of his Master. Note the motives implied in Ephesians 4:28 and 1 John 3:17.

4. Personal Aspects.

a. acquiring money. (1) The human consideration —"The labourer is worthy of his hire" (Luke 10:7; 1 Tim. 5:18); "Be not slothful in business" (Rom. 12:11). (2) The divine consideration—"Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Regardless of channels or agencies through which money is received, all the benefit comes directly from Him (1 Sam. 2:7; 1 Kings 3:11-13; Phil. 4:13-19; 1 Tim. 6:68; Heb. 13:5).

b. dispensing money. The Spirit directs everything, even the use of money for one's personal needs or keeping it for some future need. Be led, then, of the Spirit. It is no longer to be a question like, What can I spare? but like, What is His will? The steward must decide for himself as led of the Spirit, and not by reason of solicitation or outside influence. To be a "hilarious" giver is indeed altogether possible (2 Cor. 9:7).

5. Problems in Finance.

a. securing funds. Some counsel ought to be given. (1) The principle adopted may be one of solicitation or of "silent faith." (2) If solicitors are used, have due regard for the individual donor's rights to give or withhold as led by the Spirit. (3) In the method which chooses to receive offerings danger will not be absent.

(4) As God hath prospered him, the believer should be told to share (1 Cor. 16:2).

b. disposing of funds. A great trust is committed to the believers who dispose of funds.

6. Danger of Riches. Those who long to be rich, lusting for possessions (Luke 12:16-21; 16:19-31; 18:18-30; 1 Tim. 6:6-10; James 5:1-6), run into serious danger. Compare other motives for seeking money such as to provide for others or to provide for self when pressed with large responsibilities.

7. True Riches. Note the following Scriptures on this point: Luke 12:21; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 1:7; 3:16; 1 Timothy 6:18; James 2:5; Revelation 3:18. The central passage on New Testament stewardship is 2 Corinthians 8 and 9.

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