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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Baptist Faith & Message Article XIII: Stewardship

Here are my notes from a lesson on the stewardship article.

XIII. Stewardship

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.


As our language changes over the past decades and centuries, new words are introduced into our society and older words fallout of common use. Stewardship is a word that I have personally rarely heard used outside of the church atmosphere. I cannot think outside a conversation about God when I have heard someone use it.

The word “stewardship” comes from the word steward. And a steward is someone who is put into a position of oversight to direct the affairs of a master or an organization. A more common word that overlaps with steward and for the most part has put the word “steward” out of use is the word manager.

Take for example a manager of a local McDonalds. It is the responsibility of this manager to produce foods and an atmosphere that represents the dream of the owner of this company. The responsibility of leading all the employees of the local McDonalds also falls upon this manger/steward as he or she leads and directs the staff to create the McDonalds experience.

To the degree this manger/steward successfully creates the experience of McDonalds, happy meals, McRibbs, Big Macs, and apple pies, and McFlurries, he or she will please the owner and customer, and will be rewarded.


Now travel back with me to Genesis 1-3. You have the Creator/Designer who creates the heavens and the earth. He populates the heavens with stars, planets, moons, comets, and galaxies. He populates the earth with vegetation, animals, and mankind.

And we learn specifically that human beings are uniquely made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God, as I have repeatedly reminded us, does not mean so much that if we saw God with our eyes, he would have an appearance similar to man. Instead, it means that mankind has been endowed with similar capabilities as God. Like God, we can create. Like God, we can love. Like God, we have a will. We have an awareness of the reality of God and that we are his creation.

Genesis tells us that one of the privileges of being made uniquely in his image is the responsibility of stewardship over the creation as a whole. God says concerning mankind, “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 livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Gen 1:26). Then in vv 27-28, God makes man and woman and commands them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over every living thing on the earth.

So in essence, God makes us stewards of the creation. He commands us to fill the earth, to subdue the earth, and have dominion over the earth.

Subdue & Have Dominion Over the Earth?

But what does it mean to subdue and have dominion over the earth? Well we cannot spend too much time here tonight, but we can submit a couple of answers to this question.

1. Having dominion over the earth does not mean we have the right to treat it with carelessness. God did leave instructions to Adam and Eve concerning the creation. For example, Adam and Eve and their descendants were not permitted to kill and eat animals until after the flood. Therefore, having dominion over the animals must include caring for and ensuring their prosperity. Proverbs 12:10 says, “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But [even] the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” The recent videos that have surfaced of the barbaric treatment of cattle is sickening. This is precisely what God did not want when he said have dominion over the earth and everything in it. Although we are permitted to eat meat, we should not dishonor animals in this way.

2. Subduing the earth entails a respect for the land as a part of God’s good and beautiful creation. As evidence of this, God commanded the children of Israel to refrain from sowing crops every seventh year so that the land may receive a rest (Exo 23; Lev 25). Amazingly, God even leaves instruction to the Israelites concerning what kinds of trees could be used for seigeworks in war (Deut. 20).

As our world becomes more industrialized and becomes more technologically advanced, we must be prepared to think long and hard how we can be obedient to this creational ordinance.

A Stewardship of All Things

What Genesis reveals to us is: our entire lives should be given entirely in stewardship to God. No matter what we create, we have used the materials and substances he has created. No matter where we travel, the land, water, and air is his. So stewardship is not just a matter pertaining to money. Stewardship is much larger than money. Stewardship unto our Creator encompasses all of our faculties, senses, talents, monies, thoughts, and actions. This is what the BF&M affirms in the first sentence of the article on stewardship, “God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him.”

A proper understanding of our relationship to God includes the knowledge that all we do should be done to give glory unto God as the article states, “They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others.”

Bringing glory to God in simple terms means that we fulfill the goals we were created to fulfill. When Adam named the creatures of the earth, he was glorifying God because God instructed him to have dominion over the animals, and naming them partially fulfilled this command.

In a broader sense, the way we all can fulfill the command to steward ourselves in order to bring glory to God is by expressing in our own lives the characteristics God displays such as justice, mercy, grace, and love. As Micah the prophet reminds us, “He has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?

Stewardship in View of the Cross

Since the creation and the fall, the focus of stewardship has shifted somewhat. Stewardship in the Garden consisted of maintaining harmony between God, man, animal, and the earth. Stewardship after man’s rebellion against God consists of man joining God’s work to restore the creation through an invitation by God’s Spirit.

The focal point of our stewardship now is centered on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who alone has made it possible for the creation to be restored, who has made it possible for man to be forgiven by our Holy Creator, who has made it possible that harmony will be restored between God and every part of his creation. We are reminded of this truth in the BF&M article says, “Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel.”

The priority of our stewardship today always has an eye towards the cross and the one who died as our substitute on it to absorb the wrath of God. As Paul stated, so we also state, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).”

So at the heart of our stewardship is the message of Christ crucified. Fundamental to the Christian is his or her concern that this good news concerning Jesus of Nazareth is proclaimed. Jesus has come that we all may have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). This good news concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ grants us to live in hope, joy, and peace because we know what lies beyond the first death.

Our Disposition in Stewardship

Equally important to our obedience living under the Lordship of Christ is the state of our heart when we serve. King Jesus does not delight when his servants serve begrudgingly. King Jesus does not delight when we do the right things with a sour heart and attitude. 2 Corinthians 9:7 states, “ Each one [must do] just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The condition of the heart counts maybe even more than the action because partial obedience is disobedience.

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The conclusion we should draw from this teaching is this: If our obedience is heartless and we receive little or no joy in living for Jesus, then it reveals that Jesus is probably not the treasure of our lives. And let me tell you from my heart, there is nothing more discouraging than living in a community of people who confess that Jesus is their Lord, but have no joy in singing to him and have no passion to see his work accomplished.

Where are the disciples of Christ who are desperate to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness first? There is a generation of young people who have experienced God’s love and grace, and who are not going to waste much of their time on tired, apathetic, and lazy Christianity and the local churches which are filled with these kinds of people.

I hope you count yourselves among this movement regardless of your age. I hope you count yourselves among those who desire to become disciples who like the statement says, “…contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.”


May we continually be the kinds of people who pray that God would continually break our hearts for his creation and all the hurting people who live in it.

May we continually ask God to work within us to prevent each of us from becoming numb to the needs of our community and world.

May we continually ask God to do the work necessary that we pursue our joy from fulfilling his designs in our lives.

May we continually ask God’s Spirit to well up within us that we would abandon and forsake the empty and dry religion that we have been practicing for so long, and awaken our hearts and drive toward the gospel ministry and making much of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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