At Work & Theology 101

Four Principles of Biblical Stewardship

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Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. 

– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In a recent blog on stewardship we asked the question, “What does stewardship look like in our lives today?” Unfortunately many Christians today only associate the idea of stewardship with sermons they have heard about church budgets and building programs.

But for us at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics, the idea of biblical stewardship is about something much more expansive. We believe it is where the concepts of faith, work and economics intersect.

Bill Peel over at The High Calling recently wrote an excellent essay entitled Leadership Is Stewardship. His essay can help us build a framework to begin unpacking this biblical idea of stewardship.

Peel suggests that there are four important principles about biblical stewardship we must understand:

1. The principle of ownership. 

The psalmist begins the 24th psalm with,

The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.

In the beginning of Genesis, God creates everything and puts Adam in the Garden to work it and to take care of it. It is clear that man was created to work and that work is the stewardship of all of the creation that God has given him.

This is the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship. God owns everything, we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf.

Therefore, stewardship expresses our obedience regarding the administration of everything God has placed under our control, which is all encompassing. Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves.    

Echoing Deuteronomy 8:17, we might say: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But Deuteronomy 8:18 counsels us to think otherwise:

Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth. 

2. The principle of responsibility. 

In explaining responsibility, Peel writes,

Although God gives us “all things richly to enjoy,” nothing is ours. Nothing really belongs to us. God owns everything; we’re responsible for how we treat it and what we do with it. While we complain about our rights here on earth, the Bible constantly asks, What about your responsibilities? Owners have rights; stewards have responsibilities.

We are called as God’s stewards to manage that which belongs to God. While God has graciously entrusted us with the care, development, and enjoyment of everything he owns as his stewards, we are responsible to manage his holdings well and according to his desires and purposes.

3. The principle of accountability.

A steward is one who manages the possessions of another. We are all stewards of the resources, abilities and opportunities that God has entrusted to our care, and one day each one of us will be called to give an account for how we have managed what the Master has given us.

This is the maxim taught by the Parable of the Talents. God has entrusted authority over the creation to us and we are not allowed to rule over it as we see fit. We are called to exercise our dominion under the watchful eye of the Creator managing his creation in accord with the principles he has established.

Like the servants in the Parable of the Talents, we will be called to give an account of how we have administered everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority.

We will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to us.

4. The principle of reward. 

In Colossians 3:23-24 Paul writes:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The Bible shows us in the parables of the Kingdom that faithful stewards who do the master’s will with the master’s resources can expect to be rewarded incompletely in this life, but fully in the next.

We all should long to hear the master say what he exclaims in Matthew 25:21:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

As Christians in the 21st century, we need to embrace this larger biblical view of stewardship, which goes beyond church budgets or building projects, though important; it connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world.

We need to be faithful stewards of all God has given us within the opportunities presented through his providence to glorify him, serve the common good and further his Kingdom. 


Editor’s Note: Learn more about biblical stewardship in Hugh Whelchel’s How Then Should We Work? Use code STEWARD20 to get 20% OFF this book in the IFWE bookstore

Reach more people with this critical message of biblical stewardship! Donate to IFWE today.

  • Robert

    “TRUST AND OBEY ” :))

  • Lynn Gray

    taking care of what God supplies in such a way that it is pleasing to Him, ie: God created all things and we should exhibit a great concern for taking care of our God given talents,we should cherish all things . Do we not love and cherish our children which is a gift from God , so if He gives us the gift of a home should we not love and cherish it also .

    • Maryvel Garduno

      very beautiful!

  • Rick Gilbert

    Good stuff. I would add a concept that I got from Tim Keller’s book “Every Good Endeavor” wherein he makes the point that, in addition to God giving us gifts that we are responsible and accountable for stewarding, we are not alone in that endeavor. He is with us, helping us, every day.

  • Chris Downs

    This is the definition of Dominion that I believe is intended and given by GOD. We have changed our definition over time to create the right of ownership and the right to take whatever fits our lustful desires at the moment. Thank you for sharing the Truth about our role in creation. God is Awesome! ALL of Creation is Sacred and Good. It is the position of Steward and Caretaker that we have been tasked to accomplish. A task and responsibility to be enjoyed, loved and shared abundantly.

  • Amani Ratumaiyale

    stewardship is all of me in response to all of God

  • Lual Majok

    Thank you and may God bless you.
    I enjoyed reading four principles of stewardship, I like the way you explained them.
    Please keep up to help others understanding these things.
    Lual Majok

  • jpe54321

    A Christian steward is one who is saddled with some responsibilities in the Vineyard of the Lord and who is faithfully carrying out those responsibilities to the glory of God.

  • Kathy Armstrong

    If i was to define biblical Stewardship i would say it is for the Mature;man or woman Of God that has been entrusted with responsibility to govern what is God’s. Also having dominion in the earth by operating in the fullness of the blessing accomplishing God’s purpose on the earth, coming into Ownership in the life to come.

  • Gary Smith

    These Biblical passages reinforce what became known in the Middle Ages as the “Great Chain of Being.” With God at the top of the chain, and minerals at the bottom, each successive link in the hierarchy had stewardship and dominion over the links beneath it. The notion posits that we live in a well-ordered universe. But, do we really?

  • Fanita

    Awesome information for my church’s Small Group studies!

  • AndRebecca

    Thank you for this. I kept hearing that the founders of America believed in laissez faire economics or free market capitalism, and couldn’t put that together with what I have read about what they actually did. They did use the government to support science and industry and had ways of helping the poor. They helped the pioneers go west and all sorts of things. They started the first public school system in the world. They must have believed in stewardship capitalism along the lines of what you have described.

  • Mark Henninger

    Christians need to be stewards concerned with God’s Word, too. Yesterday, and today, and forever, God’s Word is relevant, not foolish, for living. We do not post, except when putting on a “religious” mask, in KJV words. Good stewards must not present God as being more silly.
    In context, Jesus said “Go ye …” as much as he said “Go #*&@ ye” …

  • tdupuy

    “Stewardship is the commitment of one’s self and possessions to God’s service, recognizing that we do not have the right of control over our property or ourselves.” I disagree with the second half of this statement.

    God has given man a right, as His stewards, of property ownership and control which is recognized by the Commandment “Thou shalt not Steal” and Jesus’ recognition that Caesar has control over those things that are Caesar’s. The key to the right of individual human ownership is that the man made laws to legally possess and control legally created property, must comport with God’s Laws. The understanding that God created everything and thus is the ultimate true owner of us and our property, is not incompatible with the man made laws of individual property ownership and Individual responsibility.

  • Reuben Wood

    Preparing to lead a bible study discussion on stewardship.This four principles have really set the stage right for me.But one thing i realize in all my readings is that the time and season when the master will return is not know.So as stewards we need to “watch and pray” and be diligent in our work.

  • Akwaowo

    Great pointer to me as I prepare a teaching on stewardship in my local assembly. The concepts need to be expounded some more.

  • Ana Castro Yanez

    Thank you. As a Christian, I am now learning how to care for all God has given me…or should I say ” all God has entrusted” me with. The doctrine of stewardship reminds me to not hold anything with a tight grip, because none of it, not even my life is mine.

  • Ap’stle Forbearance God’s-Way

    The duties of Christian Stewards are beyond the tussle and hustle to preach sermons, raising of Church funds, building projects and budgets associates. Rather, Christian stewards are workers in the vineyard of our Lord Jesus Christ who confess Him as Lord and personal Savior; and these workers utilize God’s-Given Grace & Gifts for His glory and for the betterment of His creation. __ Thanks For The Lesson

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