Joseph’s life was one of turbulent ups and downs. The biblical figure went from being his father’s favorite son to being thrown in a pit and sold into slavery. From an overseer of a wealthy man’s house to being falsely imprisoned. Ultimately, he was made second in command of the most powerful nation on Earth at that time.
Throughout all the twists and turns, Joseph fulfilled a charge that Christ laid out hundreds of years later: “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household…?” (Luke 12:42).
The next two verses answer: “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he comes shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he has” (vs. 43-44).
No matter the circumstances he encountered, Joseph proved he was a “faithful and wise steward” and was found “so doing.”
Look at Joseph’s story again. He started out as a lowly servant in the house of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guards. He worked hard until he was promoted to be the overseer of this wealthy man’s affairs.
Soon, however, he was framed for a crime and imprisoned. He had a choice: feel defeated and become depressed or again work hard at the tasks he was given. The keeper of the prison noticed the young Hebrew and put him in charge of the prison.
Because of his diligence, God ultimately blessed Joseph by making him Pharaoh’s right-hand man. Joseph skillfully led the nation through seven years of tremendous plenty followed by seven years of terrible famine. He made sure the nation and his family survived the hard time.
Throughout each chapter of his life, Joseph was a faithful steward over—he cared for—what he had been given.
Joseph was a success story amid a severe 13-year trial in Egypt (Gen. 37:2, 41:46). He was a living example of Luke 12:42 and proved to be a capable manager and proficient steward. Hebrews 11:22 shows that he will be in the kingdom of God, which makes his example a blueprint for true Christians to follow.
As with Joseph, we are to be stewards of God’s possessions and to realize that He owns everything: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psa. 24:1).
We have been given a temporary ownership on Earth while being trained to inherit and oversee God’s possessions as kings and priests in His kingdom (Rev. 5:10). Yet Jesus Christ made clear what is at stake: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown” (3:11).
Your crown—a position in God’s kingdom—hinges on how you fulfill the responsibilities given to you. You must be a wise steward of your possessions, relationships, job and time, among many other aspects of life. Most important, you must wisely use and grow in God’s Holy Spirit. If we learn to do this, God can bless us with more.
How much more? Revelation 21:7 has the answer: “He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.”
Those that overcome this world—and treasure their stewardship!—will inherit all things.
From the Beginning
To fulfill any job, we must first know what is required. Stewardship is no different. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines the Greek word used in Luke 12:42 as “a house distributor (that is, manager), or overseer, that is, an employee in that capacity; by extension a fiscal agent (treasurer).” Being a steward involves the management of others’ possessions.
During Jesus’ life on Earth, stewards would oversee their masters’ affairs. According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, wealthy households had a steward in charge. This was the case with King Herod. His steward’s name was Chuzas, whose wife was a follower of Jesus (Luke 8:3).
As part of our calling, we automatically begin training to be rulers in the world to come by being a steward of what we possess in this life now.
God is looking for wise and faithful servants according to Luke 12:42. The Greek word for wise means “thoughtful” and “sagacious.” Sagacious can be defined as acute mental discernment, keen practical sense, and shrewd. The word for faithful simply means “trustworthy.”
Reread these definitions. These qualities are not something with which we are born. They must be developed over time. God knew this, which is why He gives us years of our lives to develop the characteristics of a good steward.
Stewardship was on God’s mind from the beginning. Before forming man, the Creator 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26).
Two verses later, God expanded this instruction: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion…” (vs. 28).
The very first human beings were instructed to grow into a large family and to reign over Creation.
This same command applies today. Yet do not forget that Earth and the entire universe are God’s possessions. Although we are to subdue and have dominion over Creation, we do it as His stewards.
God expects much more from those who understand the truths of the Bible. And much is on the line.
Notice the parable of the rich man in Luke 16: “There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of you? Give an account of your stewardship; for you may be no longer steward” (vs. 1-2).
The steward had poorly managed his master’s possessions. He “wasted his goods.” We must not “waste” God’s goods as we will have to give account someday.
This is made clear in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. A master entrusted his servants with a small sum of money to keep until he returned. When the master came back, he asked what the servants had earned. Those who made a profit were entrusted with cities, and told that because “you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…” (vs. 21).
The same principle applies to us today. We are being judged by how we govern all we possess—God’s Spirit, our physical possessions, talents and personality. Our progress reveals our potential as future managers in the kingdom.
While God provides an abundance of mercy when we make mistakes, He does have high standards. There are repercussions for those who continuously neglect their stewardship. One of the servants in the parable did nothing with what He was given because he knew his master was a “hard man” and he was “afraid” (vs. 24-25).
The master responded by calling the servant “wicked and slothful” (vs. 26). Then he took away what little the servant had.
More detail is added to the master’s response in the parallel account in Luke: “You knew that I was an austere man…” (19:22).
Realize what this is saying! God is calling Himself austere, which means severe, strict, serious and uncompromising.
God loves us, and therefore He must be austere when it comes to deciding who makes it into His Family. Imagine the terrible results if He gave a wicked and slothful servant eternal life.
Yet we can measure up to these high standards. And God ensures that we will all have an adequate amount of time to do this.
The example of Joseph is again instructive. He succeeded in his stewardship because of two main factors: (1) God was with him directing every step of his life and (2) he possessed a character trait that was essential to propel him to success—he was a “doer.”
Genesis 39:22 states, “The keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.”
The Hebrew word translated “doer” (asah) has powerful meaning. Just a few of the definitions from Strong’s include the following action verbs: “to do,” “work,” “gather,” “get,” “go about,” “labor,” “serve,” “perform,” “make,” “bring forth,” “be busy,” “sacrifice,” “be industrious,” “be occupied,” and “accomplish.” Joseph protected his stewardship by being a faithful doer.
Because of Joseph’s diligence, God continued to promote him and expand his level of responsibility.
God sees everything we do. If we perform to our fullest capability, He will advance us when the time is right (Psa. 75:6-7).
Our ability to be an overseer is tied to a crown awaiting us. Since so much is at stake, we have to be diligent in protecting our future stewardship.
The Few Things
With a fuller understanding of what a steward is and what is possible if we succeed, every aspect of our lives should take on deeper meaning. God has placed certain matters in our care to help us learn to be good stewards.
Relationship with God: Our relationship with God must be our highest priority. Luke 10:27 states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind…”
We must communicate with God every day. We must also diligently study the Instruction Manual that He has provided: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).
God’s Spirit: This greatest spiritual blessing is something that we must manage faithfully. It is a down payment of eternal life (II Cor. 1:22, 5:5) and the tool that allows us to transform our character to become like Him. His command concerning His Spirit is simple and succinct: “Quench not the Spirit” (I Thes. 5:19), but “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (II Pet. 3:18).
A good steward of God’s Spirit will daily ask for more of it and exercise it by praying, studying, fasting, meditating on godly things, overcoming trials and tests, and fellowshipping with others.
Human relationships: People are important to God. The whole reason we even exist is because God wanted a Family. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of all mankind that they might have the hope to be a part of His Family. He desires us to love what He loves—people!
With that in mind, Luke 10:27 also commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Health: It is our responsibility to take care of our physical bodies and use them to serve God. Notice: “…your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…you are not your own…glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:19-20). We should work on daily improving this wonderful gift. We can do this by eating properly, exercising, getting proper rest, etc. Our body is our greatest physical possession.
Home: Our homes can be looked at as our own “mini-kingdoms” on Earth right now. There is much to manage. Regardless of where we live, or how big our houses, apartments or living spaces are, they must be used and maintained properly. Is yours clean and orderly? Do you share this blessing with others? In I Peter 4:9, we are told, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.”
Employment: Our jobs provide ample opportunity to manage our time and work responsibilities. Do we give 100 percent to our employers? Are we honest and diligent? When it comes to working, we are commanded to do it in such a way as if we were working directly for God: “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).
Financial resources: “But you shall remember the Lord your God: for it is He that gives you power to get wealth…” (Deut. 8:18). Everything we currently possess comes from God and He watches carefully how we handle our wealth. This includes our possessions and monetary accumulations. Are we careful to set aside what belongs to Him (Prov. 3:9)? Do we share our blessings with others? Is God’s Work a priority in our lives?
Talents: Everyone has gifts that have been entrusted to them. We are made in the image and likeness of our Creator. He has not left anyone talentless because any talent we have is a reflection of a different side of Him. We should strive to develop our gifts and share them with others.
Marriage: Marriage between a man and a woman pictures the relationship between Jesus and the Church. This relationship is precious in God’s eyes and it has to be managed according to His guidelines. This takes work. Cherishing each other within that relationship is critical. Ephesians 5 states: “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (vs. 21). It also states, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (vs. 22), and “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (vs. 25).
Family: God designed the family to help us understand what His Family and government will look like and how it will operate. It is important that everyone in the family understands their roles and what each pictures. Leadership falls on the man: “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (I Tim. 3:5).
A support role as helpmeet falls upon the woman: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands…” (Col. 3:18).
Children also have a role to play: “Children, obey your parents in all things…” (vs. 20).
When the family functions as God intended, there is peace, productivity and harmony.
Time: It has been said we are all millionaires in time. How we oversee and manage this asset makes clear to God what is important to us. Though we can seem to have so much of it, time is something none of us can squander because there is only a limited amount each day to qualify to sit with Christ on His throne.
We are at the end of the age and time seems to be moving more quickly than ever before. We must be good stewards of our time as it states in Ephesians: “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:16).
When we are called into God’s Way, we bring many problems and shortcomings with us. Do not be discouraged if what you have to manage now seems small. God knows exactly what to give us, when to give it, and how much of it to give to ensure that we succeed. Your actions in small things mean a lot. Even when doing everyday activities—keeping up your yard, having someone over for dinner, or making sure your clothes are well-kept and clean—remember that all are connected to our goal, which is to hear these words: “Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…” (Matt. 25:21).
The Many Things
Our eternal destiny is linked to us learning to behave like God and how we manage what we have. This allows us to be ready to inherit the true riches that lie ahead.
When you consider all the possibilities, failure is not an option. Christ challenges us with this question: “If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [money], who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11).
What are the “true riches” and “many things” that can come under our stewardship if we successfully oversee the few things now?
No matter how hard we try to comprehend it, this is an area that we cannot fully grasp or appreciate due to the limited capacity of the human mind. We are, however, given a glimpse into what is in store for us if we are successful.
Hebrews 2:8 states that we will rule over “all things.” All things includes the limitless universe and its billions of galaxies. Some Bible translations even render the phrase “all things” as the universe.
The same verse also states that “now we see not yet all things put under” the control of man.
God inspired the point that we do not yet see (“see” can also be translated perceive) all that is out there. This implies there is so much more beyond what we can even imagine. Breathtaking! Even the brightest minds can only make suppositions about what exists. There is no way humanly to comprehend the magnitude of what God promises we will oversee.
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Awe-inspiring: Galaxies that are part of Stephan’s Quintet demonstrate the immensity of the universe. The galaxy in the upper left is about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group: 40 million light-years away compared to 300 million light-years, respectively.
Photo: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team
Consider. Because of the vastness of outer space, the distance between planets, solar systems, and galaxies must be measured by the speed of light—186,000 miles per second. Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is considered a small galaxy, yet it is 100,000 light-years in diameter. Just one light-year is 5.88 trillion miles! To put it another way, it would take 100,000 years going the speed of 186,000 miles per second just to travel from one edge of our “small” galaxy to the opposite edge.
Knowing this puts into perspective the importance of effectively managing our lives.
Once born into the Family of God, we will start our relatively “small” management position overseeing a number of cities. But, as with the example of Joseph, we will have the opportunity to gain even more responsibility as time goes by. Do not underestimate the greatness and enormity of our God, nor underestimate your ability to be an overseer.
The next time you are cleaning your house, developing one of your talents, or exercising your body—all in the name of bettering what God has given you—meditate on the fact that those seemingly mundane tasks that you manage may someday determine your stewardship of distant galaxies.
Because this is a priceless opportunity, we have to protect our stewardship at all costs. After Joseph proved himself to his master Pharaoh, he heard the words: “You shall be over my house, and according unto your word shall all my people be ruled…” (Gen. 41:40). If we are wise and faithful stewards, we will hear those same words from our Master.
Let us never forget our treasured future. It should drive us to take care of what we have now.
The God who created us and all things asks, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household…?”
Will it be you?