The word 'stewardship' is heard with increasing frequency in Christian circles nowadays. The context is often financial stewardship, but the concept is much broader than that.
Stewardship is inherent in the Creation Mandate. In Genesis 1:26-28 we see that God gave humanity 'dominion' over everything He had created. To have dominion is to have power and authority, but not necessarily ownership. Dominion connotes stewardship. In Gen 2:15 and 18, Adam is commanded by God to 'tend and keep' the garden with Eve as helper or co-worker. Apparently, dominion comes with accountability.
The Parable of the Talents in Matt 25:14-25:30 illustrates God's standard of accountability. The servants who were given five and two talents respectively engaged in trade and multiplied theirs (by a factor of two). The master was pleased with them and rewarded them. The servant who was given only one talent, too fearful to trade, kept it safe, but did not multiply it. The servant's master characterised him as 'wicked' and cast him out.
If God intended humankind merely to maintain the garden of Eden, the servant with one talent would have been commended!
There's another parable that Jesus used to illustrate the principle of 'tending and keeping'. In the Parable of the Shrewd Steward (or Manager) in Lk 16:1-13, we are presented with a steward and rich man. Both are wicked. The steward is careless and wasteful of the rich man's goods. Someone blows the whistle and the rich man dismisses his steward. The steward uses the rich man's wealth to curry favour with those who might help him when his dismissal takes effect. Surprisingly, the rich man commended his steward. Jesus used this parable to illustrate the need for us Christians to have the same attitude to developing favour, but by using what God has given to us (our 'talents') to build favour through fulfilling kingdom purpose. Be shrewd. Use the techniques of the ungodly mediated by the Holy Spirit! Curry favour in the kingdom of God, not in the kingdom of the unrighteous.
Lest we feel that this is all too daunting, God has promised to be there to help. In Deut 8:18 we see that God gives our arm power to get wealth. In Deut 28:9-12 we see that God will open His treasure, the windows of heaven to pour down rain to bless the work of our hands. In Is 28:23-29 we see that God gives wisdom to the farmer and teaches him. Finally, in Gen 3:8-9, we see that God made a habit of walking in the garden in the cool of the evening to converse with Adam and Eve. I believe unshakeably that prayer is the present-day equivalent of walking in the garden in the cool of the evening and simply conversing with God.
We need have no fear of dominion and accountability. God gives us the former and expects the latter. But He does not leave us alone to work it all out for ourselves. 'If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him'. What will you ask of God when you next walk with Him as you tend and keep your part of the garden in the cool of the evening?
You can hear the discussion point on this topic if you search for Ignite Life Church Gold Coast on iTunes.
Questions for discussion
1. How does dominion differ from ownership?
2. Reflecting on the scriptures noted above, especially Gen 1:26-28 and Matt24:14-25:30, do you think that multiplication is a feature of the kingdom of God?
3. Do you agree with the idea that prayer is the present-day equivalent of walking in the garden in the cool of the evening and conversing with God?
4. Have you ever asked God for wisdom? In your experience, did He give it liberally, without reproach (see James 1:5)?
5. Can you think of other areas in which God holds us accountable, but helps us in our accountability?