Stewardship*

 

All life a stewardship. All life is a stewardship. Vital energy in whatever form - whether physical or mental, moral or spiritual is a trust from God. The earth, likewise, with its immeasurable store of material - its air and water and soil, its mineral wealth, its plant and animal life - is put at humanity’s disposal. We are to subdue (Gen. 1.28) and utilize it to the utmost; but with the perpetual proviso that we are to use it always for Another, in accordance with his will, as revealed in his Word and under his constant direction. Time, too, enters into the account. To say "Time is money" is but a crude way of suggesting that life, with all its vast and varied content, of which money can represent but a minor part, is measured in terms of time. For the whole of this sacred trust, we each must sooner or later give a strict accounting. The day for striking the balance may be long delayed, but God must eventually be treated as the preferred creditor; and every person must sooner or later render a strict account of his or her stewardship.

Stewardship and Partnership. It is sometimes urged that stewardship is not the true conception; that the real relation between God and humans in dealing with things is one of partnership rather than of stewardship. Such a distinction, however, conveys only a part of the truth. The fact is, that in this case the steward is made a partner; and his very partnership also a stewardship, while it altogether excludes the possibility of absolute ownership. This is true because the Chief Partner, being for the time absent in person, has committed his own interest to the middle partner - the individual - making him his steward in the concern. Now the party of the second part cannot carry out the will of the party of the first part without caring likewise for the party of the third part, namely, the community. As our Lord uses the term "steward" (oikonomos, from which Greek word comes the English "economist"), it glows with the warmth of the Orient, which we of the west are in danger of chilling as we touch it with our materialized thought. Stewardship according to the New Testament conception is not a menial position of servility, but a confidential relation of trust. To be a steward of the interests of the Chief Partner in his absence is high enough honor.

Once I visited the steward of a prime minister of the great Moslem State of Haidarabad, in India. The prime minister had died. The steward was in sole possession of his palace. He alone knew where the treasure was hidden. He only had the key to the harem. He was the guardian of the young prince. For was he not the trusted steward? And are we not more - partners as well? Yes, but stewards still. "It is enough for the servant that he be as his lord" (Matt. 10.25).

But in the lavishness of the love our Father, having made us "the sons of God," has offered us the privilege of partnership. Having created us in his own image (Gen. 1.26), he made us partners (koinonia) - "partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1.4). When he thus dowered man, he left us free to exercise the regal right of choice. We could be, not a steward only, as every person must be, but a partner as well, if we would. Oh, the tragedy of it that any should come sort of that priceless privilege!

*Excerpted from the beginning of Chapter One of Money the Acid Test (1918),

Written by David McConaughy, D.D., known since 1907 as the man who revolutionized church finance, Money the Acid Test sold 70,000 copies in its first year of publication. Although the principles described herein are based on Dr. McConaughy’s interpretation of Jesus’ teachings on the subject of stewardship, these principles can be found throughout the great religions and philosophies of the world.

 

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