Written by R.C. Sproul |
Thursday, October 12, 2023
One could look at that human achievement simply in terms of human arrogance—or we could see it as a fulfillment of the mandate that God gave us to have dominion over creation. Fundamentally, stewardship is about exercising our God-given dominion over His creation, reflecting the image of our creator God in His care, responsibility, maintenance, protection, and beautification of His creation.
The concept in the New Testament that describes and defines what it means to be a servant before Christ is the word stewardship. Economics and the ethical and emotional issues that surround it are frequent topics of discussion and front-page news items. This is particularly true in an election year, when much of the debate focuses on economic issues. What we don’t see initially is that other issues, such as education and abortion, are also questions of economics. Broadly understood, economics has to do not only with money or taxes or business but with the management of resources. That includes all of our resources, such as the resource of our unborn children and educational materials and policies.
In other words, how we use our resources is the subject of economics, and in a biblical sense it is the chief concern of stewardship. Consider the verbal link between stewardship and economics. The English word economics and economy come from the Greek word oikonomia, which is made up of two parts: oikos, the word for “house” or “household,” and nomos, the word for “law.” So, oikos and nomos together literally mean “house law.”
Oikonomia is transliterated into English as “economy.” The English word that translates—rather than transliterates—the word oikonomia is the English word stewardship. So, stewardship and economics are closely related concepts, and in fact, to a New Testament Christian, there was no distinction between them.
A steward in the ancient world was a person who was given the responsibility and authority to rule over the affairs of the household. For example, the patriarch Joseph became a steward over Potiphar’s household: he managed everything in the household and was given the authority to rule over the house (Gen. 39:1–6). In that role, he was responsible to manage the household well; he was not to waste the resources of the family but to make wise decisions.
Yet, the role of the steward was not something that just happened to emerge in the Greek system of management, nor was it something invented by the Egyptians in the time of Joseph. The steward’s role derives from the principle of stewardship, which is rooted in the creation of mankind.
Look at the foundations for stewardship found in the early chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1:26–28, we read:
Then God said, “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 the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.