Bill Peel (2008) wrote an excellent essay entitled Leadership Is Stewardship. His essay can help us build a framework to begin unpacking this biblical idea of stewardship. Peel suggests there are four important principles about biblical stewardship we must understand:
1. The principle of ownership. The Psalmist begins the 24th Psalm with, The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. According to Genesis chapters 1-3, God creates everything and puts Adam in the Garden to work it and take care of it. It is clear that man was created to work and that work is the stewardship of all of the creation. The fundamental principle of biblical stewardship is that God owns everything; we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf. Therefore, stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves (Peel, 2008). Deuteronomy 8:18 counsels us to, “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”
2. The principle of responsibility. Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities (Peel, 2008).
We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes. What about the way you use your time, gifts, and money? Do we give God what is due to him?
3. The principle of accountability. We are all stewards of the resources, abilities and opportunities that God has entrusted to our care, and one day each one of us will be called to give an account for how we have managed what the Master has given us. This is the lesson taught by the Parable of the Talents. God has entrusted authority over the creation to us and we are not allowed to rule over it as we see fit. We are called to exercise our dominion under the watchful eye of the Creator managing his creation in accordance with the principles he has established. Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority (Peel, 2008).
4. The principle of reward. In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul writes: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. The Bible shows us in the parables of the Kingdom that faithful stewards who do the master’s will with the master’s resources can expect to be rewarded incompletely in this life, but fully in the next. It is my prayer that you will take time to reflect on your stewardship and recommit yourself to living a life that truly pleases God.
Yours in Christ, Rev. Dr. Peter E. Grinion, Pastor