"So account of us, as of the servants of Christ, and stewards of the manifold mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful." 1 Cor. 4:1,2.
There is a sense in which all men are stewards. Every good gift comes from the Creator, either directly or indirectly, and every man possessing means or talents should recognize them as trust loans under his temporary control. But in a much more particular sense the consecrated, the saints, are God's stewards, and of such Paul is here writing.
Once we were under condemnation, even as the world still is. We, through faith, are reckoned as having escaped the condemnation; we are cleansed; we are justified freely from all things through faith in the blood of atonement. Thus (reckonedly) made free from sin and death—and (reckonedly) restored to the perfect manhood and its rights, enjoyed before sin and condemnation, we had something which we could offer to God—something (reckonedly) clean and pure and acceptable to God, viz., our justified selves. When we gave our ALL to God, it included mind, body, time, talents, money, influence, reputation—all.
Paul informs us that all such sacrifices (previously justified, i.e., reckoned clean and fit through faith in the ransom) are "acceptable to God" (1 Pet. 2:5). But how does God accept of them? We answer, By making us the stewards of all those talents, etc., which we consecrated to him. So then, our stewardship is a very special one. If we consecrated all to God, we have nothing, and should not once think of the things consecrated as ours; they are no more ours than the possessions, time, talents or money of another man are ours. When you consecrated all—even unto death—you became reckonedly dead, as a human being and to earthly ambitions, and reckonedly alive, as a "new creature," of a new, a spiritual nature, so that really, considered from this standpoint, we should think and act thus: I am now (reckonedly) a spiritual or heavenly being; my riches, my home, my honor, my every interest is now in heaven; but I am now here on earth, as a messenger or servant of God, entrusted with the responsibility of disposing of the earthly things once mine, (redeemed by Jesus, and then by me consecrated to God,) to the best possible advantage for the advancement of the Lord's cause—His children and His truth.
O that all the consecrated may more fully realize themselves as the Lord's Stewards, or Executors, appointed to administer upon their own Wills. How it would destroy the I, my, mine spirit, to realize that the I that once was is no more, but is dead; that "I live, yet not I," my former self; that I is dead; but Christ liveth in me; that I, as a member of the Christ, a spiritual creature, now live. The feeling, then, should be, I want to spend, fully and promptly, yet wisely as possible, the Master's goods, time, talent, money, influence, etc., put into my hands for disposal, anxious only that every farthing of it shall be so spent as the Master's Word directs, and as His example illustrated.
Ah, if it were thus, what an earnest offering, and what a zeal to dispose of the "goods" in their hands there would be on the part of the stewards. They would be earnestly seeking and watching for good opportunities to dispose of the consecrated "stuff." Soon influence would lose its present high premium, and time, and talent, and money, in the Lord's work would be more abundant.
Some get the mistaken idea that a steward is not expected to spend that committed to his care unless circumstances demand it of him. This is a great mistake; it is part of a steward's business to look up opportunities for using the "goods" committed to his charge. This is the clear teaching of Matt. 25:27: "Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with interest." Such diligence in seeking and finding ways and means to dispose of our consecrated talents to God's glory, and to the advancement of His truth, is essential to faithful stewardship, (Matt. 25:21) and any other course is a violation of covenant; and he who does so, is an "unprofitable servant" (25:29). It is thus that Paul reasoned when he wrote, It is required of stewards that they be found faithful, and it was thus that he practiced, also. He was a faithful steward indeed ever seeking new and greater opportunities to spend and be spent in the heavenly service. And as always, "He that seeketh findeth."
But says one, Can it be that God demanded this of us? Ah, no dear friend, you seem not to understand the matter at all. The sacrifices which we make are not to meet the demands of God's justice; those demands were all fully met more than eighteen centuries ago and there are no such demands now against those who come unto God by way of faith in the redemption. But, God has purposed the selection of a "little flock" to be the Bride and joint heir with Christ Jesus of the eternal glory and tells us that He seeketh such to be conformed to the divine image of His Son, as prove themselves earnestly desirous and worthy of that honor by freely and gladly surrendering their little all of earthly valuables (?) a sacrifice to His cause.
It is because you declared it your desire to thus sacrifice, that he appointed you a steward of your own gifts and talents. If now you regret the consecration, and desire to be excused from faithful service as the Lord's steward, nothing is more evident than that you are "not fit for the kingdom" honors, "No man having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:62). Such are unworthy to be of the Bride and joint heir with Christ, whatever else they might be fitted for. This is evident because the very TEST which the Lord applies, by which to select the "little flock" proves those unfaithful and unworthy who desire to shirk the opportunities for service.
Peter tells us that we are stewards of the many and various favors of God (1 Pet. 4:10) and should so use them as to be "good stewards." And not only [R820 : page 3] are we stewards of the consecrated money, goods, time and talents in our hands be they little or much; but in the text at the head of this article Paul mentions specially, the fact that we are stewards of the mysteries of God's plan. In addition to our own consecrated powers to use, God gives us a glad glorious message to the world the "good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people" ultimately, but which now is vailed, from the world and is to them mysteries or hidden secrets. To receive the "good news" is to become a steward of it, and brings the opportunity and the incentive also for carrying out the original stewardship. It furnishes a reason as well as an opportunity, for wise and diligent use of every talent under the steward's charge.
It is required of a steward that a man be found faithful to his trust, and if unfaithful in administering upon the poor little valuables (?) which we ourselves consecrated, should we expect to have entrusted to us the greater authority and stewardship of the future? If we would rob God of the things we ourselves gave him in consecration; if we are unfaithful as stewards and appropriate to ourselves the "loss and dross," the gilded trinkets of the present, can we expect him who knoweth the heart to entrust to such care the true riches of his glory and kingdom.
Every steward should speedily look up his accounts and see to it that however the past has been, in the future he will be faithful. All such will hear the Master's voice say, "Well done! good and faithful servant enter into the joys of thy Lord."