In his letter to Titus, Paul refers to church elders as stewards of God (1:7). I wonder how many elders have contemplated what it means to be a steward of God? The dictionary defines a steward as one who is entrusted with the management of goods which are not his own. Let’s devote some time to thinking about this interesting subject.
Stewards are mentioned in the Bible a number of times, both in parables and in real life situations. Joseph became a steward in the house of Potiphar in Egypt (Gen. 39), and had such authority that his master entrusted all his possessions to his care (39:8). The Lord Jesus told a parable about a dishonest steward who was called to account for His wasteful ways (Luke 16:1-2).
A number of personal character qualities for stewards are listed by Paul: “For a bishop (overseer) must be blameless as the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, not violent, not given to filthy lucre (dishonest gain), but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober-minded, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word….”(Titus 1:7-9 KJV).
What is involved?
We must note carefully the words “entrusted” and “management” used in the definition given above. A steward’s primary work is not “holding” or “using” or “dispensing” the owners resources (although any of these might be involved), but specifically in managing them. This means more than just being in charge, for example, as a boss. It implies a wise and complex interaction of many decisions and acts that together produce a peaceful and prosperous household. In the world one hears of baseball teams and financial funds that excel or languish depending in a large measure on the manager who oversees things.
All elders have the same Scriptures and the same Spirit. They exercise stewardship among a redeemed people who struggle with the same enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. Yet what great differences in the result among different churches! Of course there are many other factors involved, but it is at least a challenging thought that the bottom line may be a reflection of the stewardship abilities of the elders.
This raises a question: Over what are elders stewards as they lead and care for the church? Certainly they are stewards of the Scriptures, called “the faithful word” in this passage (vs. 9). This includes the message of the gospel, and all biblical truth. Elders are stewards of the families in the church (1:11) and they are stewards of the individual saints in the local fellowship; as Hebrews 13:17 puts it, elders “watch for your souls.”
But there is more. Elders must see that the talents and spiritual gifts of the believers are put to wise use for the Lord, in order that the spiritual potential of the Lord’s people is realized and developed. The goal of course, is that not only church leaders, but ordinary people will become faithful stewards of God in all matters of daily life.
However, with all the routine duties, scheduled meetings, and real life problems to attend to, it would be easy for elders to lose sight of the big picture. In quiet moments an elder might ask himself, “Why are we doing all this?” “How can I be “found faithful” as a good steward (I Cor 4:2)? These are important questions, deserving good answers.
First, the stewardship of elders in the church brings joy and satisfaction to the Lord, for the church is His bride. Following His ascension, the entire work of building and nurturing the church was left completely in the hands of His disciples acting as His stewards, under the guidance of and by the enabling of the Holy Spirit.
Second, good stewardship will promote the forming of Christlikeness in younger disciples, by making sure that the assem- bly is not a stage for showing off talents, but a workshop for learning and applying the teaching of the Word. This process is lifelong, and must be carried forward at every age level. Gifted men are like trainers to equip and prepare the saints for service to the Lord (Eph. 4:11-12). Therefore, the church becomes, among other things, a training ground for the transformation of Christian believers into mature people of God!
Finally, good stewardship will result in blessing for those outside. A well ordered assembly will be taking the gospel to where the lost are, and then bring new spiritual babes into the assembly to begin learning life in the family of God: the process of themselves being transformed into faithful stewards for the Lord.
A church whose elders are wise stewards will probably grow. Remember that the Spirit of God within the believer is always prompting and yearning in the direction of life with purpose, not the purposes of this world, but the purpose of obedience to the Lord in the pursuit of the Great Commission. Sincere believers want to associate with a church that is going somewhere. There must be something grander and more glorious than simply keeping the meetings going!
But any blessings that come from good stewardship in this life are not to be compared with the joy of hearing those words reserved for faithful stewards, “Well done thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matt 25:21). These words were spoken to a servant who had exercised careful stewardship in wisely investing his master’s goods. Apparently the master was taking joy in the process even before rewards were given, as the servant was invited to enter into a joy that was already residing in the heart of his Lord.
Finally, elders are promised a crown of glory which does not grow dim in the life to come (I Peter 5:4). That revealed truth along with love for the Savior and love for the flock gives every elder the highest incentive to concentrate his efforts on things eternal rather than on things of this world.