Biblical Stewardship (Part 3) - Managing What God Gives You
Pastor Dominic Cardamone
As Creator, God is the owner of all things (Ownership Principle discussed here). Along with the very gift of life, He provides and entrusts resources to each person including time, talents, relationships, abilities, etc. (Provision Principle discussed here). With every provision of God comes the responsibility to be a faithful steward of those resources.
The words steward or stewardship are Biblical terms that may be unfamiliar to some. A few modern examples of a steward could include: flight attendant, groundskeeper, estate/property manager, business/company manager, supervisor, banker/financial advisor, or power of attorney. In the Bible, we see samples of stewards as well. Joseph was appointed to watch over and administer all aspects of Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:4-5). Later we find Joseph advising Pharaoh to appoint fifty men to regulate and watch over the abundant harvest during the seven years of plenty (Genesis 41:33-44). Solomon appointed thirty-six hundred overseers to manage work (2 Chronicles 2:18). In Josiah’s time of temple renovation, there were overseers over all the workmen in every job (2 Chronicles 34:13, 17). Nehemiah appointed men to oversee the rebuilding of the wall (Nehemiah 11:9, 14), to oversee the Levites (verse 22), and to be in charge of the Levitical singers (Nehemiah 12:42). Stewardship simply defined is the management of the affairs and/or assets of another.
Looking back to Joseph’s story in Genesis 39-41, what are some key truths we can learn about a steward?
A steward is given the authorization to act.
By the grace of God, Joseph was promoted to overseer (the position of steward) in Potiphar’s house (Genesis 39:4). The scriptures record that Potiphar put all that he had into Joseph’s hands. In other words, Potiphar gave Joseph, as his steward, the authorization to act on his behalf concerning all the affairs of his house. It’s fitting to note, Joseph didn’t squander the opportunity but got to work. He acted upon his authorization. And consequently because of Joseph’s actions as steward (and God’s blessing), Potiphar’s house prospered. Put that on repeat in the following chapters when Joseph stands before the jailer and Pharaoh himself. We too have been authorized by God to act on his behalf with the resources he has given to us (Genesis 1:28; 1 Corinthians 10:31). What are we doing with that authorization? Are we like the servant with the one talent in Matthew 25 who refused to be active and invest and squandered his master’s resources? Or are we like Joseph? Do we take initiative and act upon the resources and opportunities provided to us?
A steward has a tremendous responsibility to be faithful.
With the authority comes responsibility. A steward’s responsibility is to act on behalf of his master and for his best interest. The word overseer used in Genesis 39:4 is a term that speaks of the highest person of authority who exercised oversight over others. The meaning of the word carries the idea of visitation, investigation, inspection. Included in this authoritative oversight was the concept of watching, directing, and protecting the master’s interests. The steward or overseer was someone charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others as it pertains to the master are done rightly. Christians have a responsibility to be diligent and faithful with the provision and resources that God gives to them (1 Corinthians 4:2). We must be trusty, steadfast in our affection and allegiance, firm in adherence to promises we make or in observance of the duties we have, honest in all our dealings, and above all true to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. We could even go as far as to say we must give attention to honing our skills and abilities to be more fit for our Master’s purposes. Joseph was wise and discreet (Genesis 41:33, 39). No doubt God enabled him, but he was also disciplined in acquiring knowledge and applying that knowledge effectively to the benefit of his master. He did what was best, best.
A steward will face accountability.
While the accusations were unfounded and false, a reckoning of Joseph’s alleged behavior towards Potiphar’s wife was still enacted (Genesis 39:19-20). Here is the principle: Joseph was answerable to Potiphar, his master. The servants with the talents stood before their lord upon his return from his journey and gave an account of what they did with his resources (Matthew 25:19). All believers will one day give an account before God for what we have done with what He has entrusted to us (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). This ought to motivate us to take our responsibility seriously and work faithfully so as to give a good accounting. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” When the day comes for us to stand before our Master, will we be found well-pleasing to Him?
A steward has tremendous potential.
By God’s grace, Joseph’s faithful stewardship lead to reward, profit, and blessing on an exponential scale. Potiphar and his household benefited greatly under Joseph’s management (Genesis 39:2-6). The jailer and the other prisoners were helped by Joseph’s faithfulness (Genesis 39:21-23). Both the butler and the baker were recipients of Joseph’s kindness toward them (Genesis 40:1-20). Pharaoh, Egypt, and even other countries were saved from starvation because of Joseph’s wisdom and prudence leading up to the famine years (Genesis 41:1-57). Jacob, Joseph’s brothers, and their families were provided for by Joseph (Genesis 42-47). Joseph ultimately brought God glory through it all (Genesis 50:15-21)! Joseph was faithful with little and God blessed him with more. Sadly, Christians can miss the potential God has for them because we fail in the area of stewardship. We pray for God to provide more, but we squander what He has already given to us. Why should we expect Him to give us more to mismanage? Perhaps instead our prayer should be, “Lord help me to do better with what you have already given me.” I believe then we would apprehend the great potential good stewardship affords.