Read for This Week’s Study: Col. 1:16–18; Heb. 4:14–16; 3 John 3; Gen. 6:13–18; Rev. 14:6–12; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16.
Memory Text: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:7, NIV).
This week we begin our discussion and thoughts with several different passages from the Bible. At the core of the discussion is the question of what it is that lies at the center of the mandate to be stewards.
- Why is stewardship necessary?
- What provides the best mandate for Christian stewardship?
- What is the deepest motivation toward being a good steward?
- Where does the power to be a good steward come from?
The main passages of Scripture we will look at are these:
Colossians 1:16-18 – “16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (NIV)
Philippians 2:4-11 – “4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (ESV)
1 Peter 1:15-16 – “15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (NIV)
Several things essential to the concept of stewardship emerge from these verses:
- The creatorship of God, or Christ. There is a very clear indication that all things were created by God and, as we would expect, creatorship conveys ownership. God has a right to all things as he originated them.
- The Philippians passage conveys a rather astonishing truth, that the God who made all things did not consider the retention of his place in heaven to be of more importance than the redemption of those who were lost, so he humbled himself, all the way from heaven to the ignominy of a cross.
- The third passage indicates a mandate for humans to be like Christ, like God. The actions of God, the nature of God, provide a mandate for human emulation. Because God is holy, and giving, and because he made us, we ought to be like him. In other words, because Christ is at the center of things, we ought to aim to be like him. Prominent in his work is the stewarding of God’s resources for the benefit of others.
In a very interesting twist, the lesson elects to illustrate this principle of stewarding God’s assets for the benefit of others by drawing attention to the tabernacle that is described in the Old Testament. The construction and set-up of the tabernacle, is described in various places in the books of Exodus and Leviticus. In the New Testament, particularly the book of Hebrews, some links are made between the tabernacle and the work of Jesus. (See Hebrews 4:14-16). Though the design and operation of the tabernacle are complex, some very clear and important lessons can be drawn from its study. Among them are these:
- God has not set himself up in some far-away place out in the universe where he is remote from trouble. In this case, he set his thrown up in the middle of things!
- It is clear from the tabernacle that people were to understand that when they had some trouble with sin, they were not to flee from God but to come toward him.
- Through some sort of sacrifice, God had found a solution to sin for the sinner who came, after sacrifice was made, was free to go back into life.
- The problem of sin is very serious for being freed from it, required the death of some kind of substitute.
- The whole system was designed to deal with sin, exonerate God, and free the sinner. All resources were stewarded toward that end.
It should be noted, at the end of this lesson, that it is not an ordinary thing for a person to be selfless, inclined to be a good steward for the benefit of others. That kind of motivation comes only from the contemplation of what Jesus has done, and from the power that comes into a life given over to God because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Unless God and the work of the Spirit are kept in the forefront of living, any calls for good stewardship fall hard on human ears.
We close with the observation made by the Apostle John as he watched the believers in his day – 3 It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. 3 John 1:3 (NIV)