Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Over the next several months, I would like to use these newsletters to go over an introductory look at stewardship. At my previous parish, I did a series of three workshops on the subject of stewardship called “Our Life in Christ.” Much of the material that will be presented in these newsletters will be coming from the first of these workshops.
The Greek word that is often translated as “steward” or “stewardship” is a compound word meaning “house manager.” A house manager is someone who cares for someone’s house while that person is away. The manager owns nothing of the house, yet it’s been entrusted to his care for the duration of the owner’s absence. It from this Greek word that we also get the word “economy.” An economy is defined as “thrifty management, frugality in the expenditure or consumption of money, materials, etc.” or “the disposition or regulation of the parts or functions of any organic whole; an organized system or method.” Our work as God’s stewards goes far beyond what we do with our money but also includes how we manage our time, and our talents.
Now, if you were to just go through the New Testament and look for all the times it uses this word “steward” or “stewardship” you’d find a broad range of meaning ranging from how we are to manage God’s gifts, to God’s plan of salvation, to how He brings His gifts to His Church through the office of apostles and the office of the holy ministry. Roy Bleick in his book Much More Than Giving points out that stewardship is never used to designate the action of giving, much less the giving of money but the office of administration or management, or the implementation of a plan.
Yet, if we were just to focus on how the Bible uses this word “stewardship” we’d still miss out on a lot of the wisdom that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us about our role as God’s stewards. The New Testament also uses the words “servant,” (1 Peter 2:16), “repentance” (Titus 2:12), “love” (John 13:34-35) and “sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Here we find that the stewards are servants, serving not themselves but their neighbours. Stewards are repentant, realizing that nothing we have is ours, nor do we deserve it, but that all that we have has been given to us by God out of His Fatherly grace and mercy. Stewards act out of love, not for themselves but those around them. The work of stewards are our spiritual sacrifices made acceptable to God in Christ. This means that the entire life of the steward, whether serving inside or outside the church, is part of our worship and devotion to the God who sent His Son to die to save us.
Over time the church has also discovered other words that we can use to help us understand stewardship. One is the “Christian life” (Gal 5:1, 13-15). Much of stewardship is our Christian life, God working through us in repentance, faith, and love to care for our neighbours. Another is “Good works” (Gal 6:9-10). And finally, and this one is the most important and makes the Lutheran Church unique is “Vocation” (Luke 3:10-14 & 1 Corinthians 7:15-24). If you want to understand the Lutheran teaching of stewardship and evangelism, you have to understand “Vocation.” Vocation teaches us that God puts us in certain offices in life (mother, father, husband, wife, child, employee, employer, etc.) to serve our neighbours in love. Through vocation, God preserves His creation and works to grow His Church as Christians work in their many and various vocations.
All of these words help us understand our calling in Christ as God’s stewards and the scope of the stewardship that God gives to us. Next month we’ll take a look at Titus 2:11-15 and what makes us stewards.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Tim Schneider