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To help you understand stewardship in the Bible, we review the biblical texts on stewardship and examples of stewardship in the Bible.
January 15, 2018
Stewardship in the Bible is one of the essential lessons you need to learn as a disciple of Christ. But today, stewardship is often misunderstood, partially grasped, or not on anyone’s radar at all. Sometimes it's even confused with tithing in the bible.
So, what do you think about when you hear the word “steward”?
All of these ideas and much more are parts of what it means to be a steward. But they don't paint a complete picture of the meaning of biblical stewardship.
In short: Biblical stewardship is one of the primary ways God calls us to live our life.
It’s a theme in the Bible you can trace from Genesis to Revelation. It’s a calling rooted in creation, highlighted throughout the Bible, and influences the way you live your life for the glory of God.
In this post, we're going answer some common questions and highlight the big themes of what it means to be a steward, including:
Before we dive into Bible verses about stewardship, let’s start by defining what it means to be a steward.
Has someone ever asked you to watch their kids? Are you responsible for managing an office or people on behalf of an employer? Do you have a financial advisor overseeing your investments?
If you answered yes to any of these three questions, then you are or have been a steward.
In general, to steward is to manage something on someone’s behalf. Whether a family member, friend, or employer asks you to watch over something, then you're stewarding—managing—whatever they entrusted to your care.
In the Bible, stewardship is another way of talking about how you live your life. In the New Testament, the word “steward” is rooted in the Greek word “oikonomos,” which means “the manager of a household."
If you were a steward in Ancient Greek culture, you were not the owner of the house. Instead you would have been the manager of the house and the household affairs. From making sure the home was clean to managing the finances and perhaps servants, you would have managed everything on behalf of the owner.
In light of Bible verses about stewardship below, you’ll see that your life is not your own. Your life is on loan from God—regardless if you acknowledge this or not—and God calls you to steward everything about your life for his glory and the good of others.
To help you see the duties of a steward in the Bible, let’s look at seven Biblical texts on stewardship that will give you a better idea of what biblical stewardship means.
The Bible has a lot to say about stewardship, but here are seven big themes emphasized in biblical texts on stewardship:
Stewardship in the Bible begins with the very first verse.
We see in this passage that God is the creator of everything: He created the universe, the earth, and he created you. There’s not one particle in the entire world that was not created by God.
This is the begining of all biblical stewardship principles.
This theme is picked up in the New Testament. In Colossians, we read, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth… all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:15-16).
The foundation of stewardship is built upon this reality.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Not only did God create everything; God owns everything (cf. Job 41:11; 1 Tim. 4:3-5). This is the beginning of all biblical stewardship principles.
Your life is on loan from God. He has given you your life to steward for his glory and your good.
As the owner of everything, God desires for all things to be redeemed (Col. 1:20), including people, governments, businesses, and the arts. Said another way: God desires for everything to bring him glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein."
God calls us to manage what he created on his behalf.
If you haven’t noticed, you do not see the individual members of the Trinity farming, building houses, or preaching the gospel. But, if you look with the eyes of faith, you can see God meeting the needs of people, drawing them to himself in faith, and tending to his creation through billions of people around the world.
This theme of participating in God’s work is picked up by Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth: “For we are God’s fellow workers… “ (1. Cor. 3:9). Elsewhere, Paul mentions that we are “working together with him… “ (2 Cor. 6:1). God is at work in your life and around the world, and you have the privilege of participating in his work. Think about it this way.
Examples of stewardship in the bible about. Just look through the books of the bible to see many people that God has delegated responsibility to.
When Jesus builds his church, he does so through our participation in his work by preaching the gospel.
When you eat your bagel for breakfast, God provided it for you through the work of farmers, bakers, truck drivers, and grocery stores.
We could go on about gratitude and thanksgiving in the Bible. But you get the point.
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'”
God commands us not to love money and to be content with what we have (Her. 13:5). But he also commands us to work and take care of ourselves and family financially. In doing so, you will fight with the tension of providing for yourself and your family while facing the temptation to covet others belongings and love money itself.
Now, for different reasons, you may face a financial setback or just need help to pay your bills. During these times, it’s okay to receive support from your family and friends, organizations, and even the government. In verse above, Paul’s words are intended to convey that God commands us not to exploit others and their generosity.
“...aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one."
God also leads us to save money for the future.
Tomorrow, you do not know if you will face a hardship, such as an injury or sickness, and there will be a time when you’re no longer able to work due to your age.
If you’re just getting started in your professional career or find yourself overextended financially, then fight the temptation to stress out about your situation overtly. Seek the Lord and counsel—especially from a financial advisor—and take steps toward remedying your situation.
Now, when it comes to saving, there is also a temptation to sin. You may place your trust and hope in the money you save instead of the Lord. What is more, you may be tempted not to give to your church or others because you love your savings too much (Matt. 6:19-21).
If your savings account or 401K dropped below a certain level, would you lose all hope? Or, would experience a moment of grief, but continue to trust in the Lord?
"...yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring…”
In the Bible, you can argue that Christians are or are not required to tithe.
Regardless of your beliefs about tithing, one thing you cannot avoid is that God commands you to give generously. You can give via text in church, online giving, mobile giving or tried and true cash/check giving in the offering plate.
Again, there will be times in your life when you may not be able to give as much as you like. But aim to steward your resources in such a way that you may be able to give more. For you, this may mean you need to cut back some of your expenses or pick up extra work to pay off debt that’s chewing up your income to be able to give.
As above, seek the Lord and counsel on how you can best approach your situation.
"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
As a steward of the resources God gives you, you will need to manage them in such a way that you can provide for the needs of others. Providing for others can include monetary gifts, food, and clothing, or just being hospitable with what you have.
When it comes to helping others, God desires for you to take care of your family (1 Tim. 5:8), your church (Gal. 6:6; 1 Tim. 5:17-18), and those in need (Matt. 25:35-40).
"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?”
Above, in Genesis 1:26-28, we observe that the concept of stewardship is woven into the fabric of creation. The desire to steward has been hardwired into the soul of every person, which explains why, in varying degrees, people have a desire to create and manage.
On this foundation, let’s take a look at four examples of stewardship in the Bible.
From the very beginning, God had good intentions for work. In Genesis 2:15, we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
God called Adam to “work” and to “keep” the garden. Basically, God commanded Adam to take care of things on his behalf.
God’s call of Adam to wasn't a burden, and God isn’t a vindictive taskmaster. Since Adam's call to work preceded the entrance of sin (Gen. 3), we can see that God had a good purpose for work in mind. In the words of Randy Alcorn, “Work was part of the original Eden. It was part of a perfect human life.”
Joseph’s is arguably one of the best examples of biblical stewardship (Gen. 39).
After Joseph was brought to Egypt, the LORD made him a successful man. While Joseph was in the house of his Egyptian master, we read, “So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Gen. 39:4).
Joseph didn’t own this home.
He didn’t own the furnishings.
He wasn’t responsible for generating income.
But he was given stewardship over the house and everything his master owned.
Referring back to the biblical stewardship definition above—“the manager of a household”—you can see why Joseph is the perfect example of what it means to be a steward.
Remember, God owns the earth. As the owner of everything, he makes his desires for his creation known. We see just one example of this in Leviticus 25:1-5.
In this passage, the LORD told Moses to let the people farm the land for six years, but to make them take a break from farming the ground in the seventh year.
What does this have to do with stewardship in the Bible?
From this passage, we see that God owns the earth, he oversees the growth of produce, and he knows how to handle his land.
In the end, stewardship in the Bible boils down to this question: Who's the Lord of your life? Are you or is the Lord? How do you know?
To help you examine yourself (1 Cor. 13:5), here are some questions you can ask:
These questions and more will help you to make an honest assessment of your life. Also, consider reaching out to a leader of your church or another Christian to help you talk through these questions for support and guidance.