John MacArthur defines a steward well when he writes, “A steward is responsible for another’s resources. A Christian does not own his gifts, but God has given him gifts to manage for the church and His glory” (The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1947).
The word steward is not a common word in our world. Other Biblical passages will help us more effectively understand its use.
Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. (I Corinthians 4:1-4, NKJV)
Whenever God uses the word steward, it means that we are held accountable for the service. You see it in the phrase, “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” Our faithful service is evaluated by God. The apostle Paul was far more concerned about God’s evaluation of him than what others would think (1 Corinthians 4:1-4). That is a humbling thought for me as a pastor, but it should also be a humbling thought for you. God has entrusted you with certain spiritual gifts. Are you using them?
To understand more clearly your responsibility, think with me about a financial investment, like an IRA. Let’s say handling finances is not your cup of tea. You acknowledge the fact that financial markets are confusing to understand let alone to forecast. So you subcontract out this portion of your life. You have a consultant, whom you pay, and whom you trust to invest the money for you. Then one day you discover that your friend at work is earning a lot more money in his IRA with less investment than you are in yours. You quiz your investor about it, and he says, “You know I’ve just been so busy for the last ten years I haven’t had much time to think about it. So I’ve put your money on hold. In fact, I put your money in a locked box in our coat closet—if you ever need it, I’ll be glad to get it for you. I’ll probably get around to investing it for you in a few years. I just have so much stuff going on right now. I mean the girls have soccer, and my son has wrestling. My youngest daughter has dance class. And by the time we factor in vacations, I just haven’t gotten around to investing your money. But I mean to, and I will get to it. Just not now.”
You and I would probably come unglued! And for good reason. The man is a steward of what we have entrusted to him. And he has not been a good one! It’s fair to say that he has been irresponsible. Now remember, God uses the word steward to describe our special relationship with Him. A relationship for which we will give an account. Have we been good stewards with the spiritual gifts He has extended to us? Are we using them for His glory?