Sabbath School Lesson for January 27-February 2, 2018
How pleasant it would be to study what stewardship meant in the Garden of Eden, which may be very similar to what it will be like in the earth made new. However, it’s best for us here and now to focus our attention on what stewardship means to us in our present circumstances.
We get glimpses of the life of a steward in both the Old and New Testaments. The descriptive phrase for steward, which means one “who is over the house”, has been translated several ways at different times. It could refer to an “official”, “caretaker”, “palace administrator”, “manager”, “servant”, or even “prime minister”. Basically, it means a person who is in charge of another’s household and/or finances.
Just what were the responsibilities and expectations of a steward in the Bible? Knowing their duties and characteristics might help clarify what God expects of us, His loyal followers today.
Remember this: “On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV
One thing changed after Adam and Eve sinned that affected their scope of stewardship over the earth. They not only were responsible for maintaining the tangible blessings that surrounded them in nature, but they soon found themselves as God’s instruments in spreading the gospel with all who came after them.
God entrusted them and us with making the plan of salvation known to all who would hear it. With the Holy Spirit empowering us, we can affect all in our sphere of influence to know who God is and how His presence is a valuable asset of survival in this increasingly evil world.
We must encourage this relationship of trust with God, the Creator and Owner of the universe. We are accountable only to Him. He is the One we are commissioned to please. He’s the One we work for and with. The bonds of trust that develop from this relationship will grow as the years go by, as we enjoy our partnership with Him.
Sunday: Stewards in the Old Testament
At least three things might be noted from the examples of stewardship in the Old Testament…
- Stewards were chosen because of their abilities. (examples: the workmen who built the sanctuary–Exodus 31:1-6 and Joseph, chosen to work for Potiphar–Genesis 39:2-4)
- Stewards, who were entrusted with great responsibilities, still recognized who the owner was. (example: Abraham’s servant who found a wife for Isaac–Genesis 24:34-38)
- Stewards could be dismissed from service, if they lost the trust of their master. (example: Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden–Genesis 3:23, 24
From these discoveries, we need to remember that…
- God has chosen us to be His stewards/disciples, recognizing that we have the ability to glorify God and bless others.
- God has given us the sacred responsibility of spreading the word of God to all who will hear.
- God does not force us into service, nor does He keep us there against our will. When we break our bond of trust with Him, it can only be restored by confession and repentance.
Read Genesis 39:2-4 and 24:34-38. Is ability the only factor in choosing someone for an overseer, such as Joseph and Abraham’s servant? Describe the relationship they must have had with their masters. Why is trust so essential in such a relationship?
Read Isaiah 22:15-18. What seems to have been the problem(s) with Shebna, Hezekiah’s treasurer?
Read 2 Kings 5:25-27. How did Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, pay for his unfaithful, deceitful actions? Was this a fair punishment for his crime, and how does it show us where covetousness in the role of a steward can lead?
Monday: Stewards in the New Testament
In the New Testament we find examples of what was expected of a steward. The descriptions there, found in the parables of Jesus and letters of the apostles, provide an expanded version of what it is like to be a steward.
They clearly show that the duties of a steward go beyond the physical upkeep of the master’s possessions. Stewards of God have an influence on His intangible blessings as well. In addition, the trust between the master and the steward is held paramount. It represents the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of every believer and follower of Christ.
When we are stewards of God’s grace, we are given the management of spiritual realities. This gospel commission we’ve been given prepares us for heaven, where eternal realities are the norm. Not only are we blessed by our position of trust, but others with whom we associate are given hope and healing in their own walk with God. Even the angels, watching our sometimes frightful experiences, are given instruction about the love and character of God.
Read Luke 12:48, 1 Corinthians 4:2, 12, 13, and John 16:33. What are we accountable for and what can we expect from our life of service to the Lord?
Read 1 Corinthians 4:1 and 1 Peter 4:9, 10. What kind of mysteries are the steward to share? How does Peter suggest we accomplish this task?
Read Luke 12:35-44 and Titus 1:7-9. What are some of the ways a steward shows himself to be faithful or unfaithful?
Tuesday: Stewards of the Mysteries of God
Even though they are called mysteries, we are still expected to know as much about them as possible. There are many sides to the story of redemption and grace, and we are given the responsibility of sharing what we know to be true. The whole universe is waiting to see how we are able to vindicate God, to free Him from Satan’s false accusations about His character.
Being a steward of the gospel is most likely our most solemn duty while on this earth. Shamefully, we don’t often take it as seriously as we should. Every opportunity wasted, every duty neglected or disregarded, puts us in peril of becoming an unfaithful steward. Fortunately, however, the grace of God, which we are to share, also extends to the steward. We are also recipients of the grace needed to accomplish what we’ve been asked to do.
Read 1 Peter 1:12 and Ephesians 3:10. With whom are we are invited to share the themes of salvation?
Read Colossians 1:27, 2:2, 3. How important is Christ to this mystery of God we are to share?
Read Job 11:7 and Deuteronomy 29:29. Why doesn’t God reveal everything to us?
Wednesday: Stewards of Spiritual Truth
Ephesians 6 speaks to us about the need to gird ourselves with truth. God’s truth about redemption wrapped tightly around our mid-section, where we can access it easily, is a good place for it. People who wear guns choose to store them somewhere near the waist, in order for hands to grab them quickly when needed. Other items we are to arm ourselves with are righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer. See Ephesians 6:10-18.
Yes, we need all of God’s armor, when facing our adversary Satan. Servants are often asked to wear a uniform as they perform their duties. And even workers who come to a modern job site may be required to wear appropriate clothing, which not only makes their duties easier, but helps identify them with their employer.
In order to manage God’s intangible gifts, which conveniently make up God’s armor, we must display them as our uniform/armor so all will understand their value and seek to “join the team”–God’s team.
Nothing is so important as being stewards of spiritual blessings. We can’t manage or distribute them well, however, if we don’t own them ourselves. And that is why God asks us to be His spokespersons by keeping His eternal truths safe in our hearts, but visible for all to see, causing God to be glorified.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NKJV
Read Ephesians 6:10-17. What tangibles (such as a shield or helmet) and what intangibles (such as righteousness and faith) are described in this passage? Why are the tangibles even mentioned, when the intangibles are actually where our focus should be?
Read Ephesians 6:18. How important is prayer in having the armor of God? Should it be considered a part of our armor? Where does it fit in?
Read Romans 6:23 and John 3:16. In what way are these two verses saying the same thing? Why is one more widely known than the other? Why is it important to speak the truth in the most appealing way to our listener?
Thursday: Our Responsibility as Stewards
Each of us must learn to accept responsibility in performing a steward’s work. It’s important to remember that we must answer to God for our success or failure. We shouldn’t try to shift the blame to anyone else, when our efforts fail or we don’t achieve the desired results.
But let’s remember how God measures success. It may not be by the standards we have chosen–for example, how many baptisms we have encouraged, or how much money we have donated to charitable projects. God does not look at our intelligence or any other outward action on our part. He is basically looking for one thing about us, and that is our faith.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him…” Hebrews 11:6 NKJV
Let’s also remember that becoming a steward doesn’t mean we lose our power of choice. We are asked to choose Him every day of our lives. This is no forced servitude He’s asking for. This servitude is based on love and trust between us and God. He wants nothing more from us than “a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). The responsibility, when viewed this way, is more of an opportunity.
Read Genesis 39:8, 9 and Daniel 3:16-18. Was Joseph responsible just to Potiphar? Were Daniel’s three friends only responsible to the king?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Romans 14:10, 12. What does personal responsibility have to do with shifting the blame to someone else?
Read Revelation 14:6-12. What spiritual truths are found in the three angels’ messages that need to be shared in these end times?
Sunday: The Old Testament shows us many examples of stewards. They were chosen because of their abilities, but also because they showed themselves trustworthy.
Monday: The New Testament expanded our view of stewardship. Management duties included not only tangible possessions, but spiritual truths found in the heart.
Tuesday: Stewards must become familiar with the gospel (mysteries of God), so they can share it with others.
Wednesday: Arming ourselves with gospel truth is the only way to achieve success in our stewardship position before God.
Thursday: Every steward must answer only for himself. Casting blame on anyone else just doesn’t work.
Think for a moment about all the “mud-slinging” done right after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. First, Adam tried to blame Eve, even insinuating that God was also responsible, since He made her for him. Then, Eve blamed the serpent.
God must have cringed at their childish attempts to shift responsibility to someone else. But this is one of Satan’s greatest tools in causing upheaval in the world today. No one wants to admit that they are responsible for their mistakes.
When children are found in the habit of blaming others, we must recognize the problem and the solution. Often, it’s a lack of trust. They haven’t fully developed the trust in the parent that allows them to openly admit their misdeeds. Only when trust is encouraged can truth-telling and confession be the norm that guides their behavior.
Likewise with adults. We can only come to accept responsibility for our actions when we are in a relationship of trust with our Maker.
- We trust God to judge us fairly.
- We know He is more than willing to offer us forgiveness.
- We believe He will help us make amends.
When we have mastered these steps that make up our redemption, we will be qualified to be faithful stewards of God’s grace, because we will have experienced it ourselves. Our closeness to Him will make our stewardship feel more like a partnership.
Next Week’s Lesson: The Marks of a Steward
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/