In his Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine defines the Greek word oikonomos, which is translated "steward, stewardship." He said it "primarily denoted the manager of a household or estate," usually slaves or former slaves (74). The principal idea of " steward" was servant - "stewardship" was a service role. What might we learn about this word and its application? Is something applicable to us that we may not be observing? Herein we briefly look at this subject.
The Apostle Paul told the Church at Corinth, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). For "faithful," the Greek word is pistos, which means "to be trusted, reliable" (Vine 72). Therefore, whoever the New Testament identifies as a "steward," they are "to be trusted, reliable" servants in that capacity. Their master can confidently expect them to do their assigned task.
The New Testament identifies three areas where stewardship is assigned.
(1) The duty is assigned to preachers of the Gospel and teachers of the Word of God. "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor. 4:1). It should go without saying that those who preach and teach must be reliable in handling the Truth, so that those who hear can trust their word. We need only look about us at the religious confusion of our world to see what can happen if preachers and teachers are not faithful, as stewards.
(2) The second application of the word is made to elders or bishops. Paul wrote, "For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God" (Tit. 1:7). His duty is that of "manager" of the house of God. Thus, Paul will ask, "For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (1 Tim. 3:5) The stewardship of elders is to faithfully, reliably, trustworthily care for the church, which is God's house (1 Tim. 3:15).
(3) The third area of responsibility refers to general work on the part of all Christians. Peter, speaking of our varied abilities, wrote, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet. 4:10). Whatever work we are qualified to do, we must do it faithfully - be reliable - be people who can be trusted to do as we should. This third duty encompasses the entirety of our service to God as his people.
It is an unfortunate fact that many to whom God assigns stewardship," do not fulfill their tasks with diligence. We can find too many reasons not to do as he says. There seems to be little readiness to step forward to do what we can in our service to him. I was reminded of this when I read a brief quip in Reader's Digest (6-91) about a feisty 91-year old Missouri grandmother. She had had a total hip replacement and was confined to her home. Because there was no family nearby, a call was made to Meals On Wheels to assure that she had the food she needed. The organization was asked to approach her carefully because she did not like to think of herself as helpless. When the volunteer telephoned her, she explained that Meals on Wheels was a volunteer service to the elderly and ill. She was asked if she would be interested in it? There was a pause. "Well, sure, if you can't find anybody else to get food to the old people, I guess I can."
That attitude is a far cry from that which is so frequently heard today - "let somebody else do it." Is the task something that needs to be done? Is it assigned to us as a duty by God? Is there a legitimate reason why we cannot handle the matter? Are we waiting on someone else to do what we are personally obligated to do? When God tells his people to teach the Truth to the lost, to edify and up-lift saints that are weak, and to bear the burdens of others who need us, he has assigned stewardship and we are to be faithful in the discharge of duty.
The motivation for stewardship is the knowledge that God says do it. We will be blessed or punished, depending upon our response to the duty. Stewardship is what being a Christian is all about. The paper, The Light (5-91) makes this statement, "Stewardship is what a man does after he says, 'I believe."' That pretty well sums it up, doesn't it?
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, p. 453