We were created to be stewards of God’s creation through our work. There are many passages concerning stewardship in the Bible that tell us this, but the following three are important because they give us a biblical framework for stewardship in our lives.
The first key passage provides the foundation for biblical stewardship. The second shows us what biblical stewardship looks like in action. The third tells us how our stewardship will be judged, and in doing so reveals how the resources entrusted to us are to be used.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Genesis 1:28 is known as the cultural mandate. It’s the original call to stewardship. It’s where God first calls humanity to cultivate and care for his creation using the unique gifts and talents he has endowed to every person.
There are echoes of this mandate in God’s words to Noah found in Genesis 9:1-7, part of which reads:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…. And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Jeremiah 29 resonates with this call to stewardship, too. His letter gives specific calls to action that flesh out the command to fill the earth and subdue it. Jeremiah 29:5-7 says,
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
As these latter two passages indicate, the cultural mandate was meant not only for Adam and Eve, but for others as well – including Christians today. It still stands as God’s directive for our stewardship of his creation.
2 Samuel 23:8-17
David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the Lord (2 Sam. 23:14-16).
This is the story of David’s mighty men, a story of stewardship in action. If you want to know what stewardship looks like, study this passage.
David is fleeing for his life. He is accompanied by his loyal followers, mighty warriors all. David’s men overhear him longing for water from the well of Bethlehem, which is heavily guarded by the Philistines. Three of the men fight their way through to the well and bring David water.
To their surprise, David would not drink the water they had risked their lives to retrieve. He poured it on the ground instead. David was not rejecting the sacrifice of the men who had gotten water for him. Rather, he was pronouncing their sacrifice too holy for him to selfishly consume.
This Old Testament story illustrates the fact that we should not selfishly live our lives for ourselves. David poured the water out on the ground as a sacrifice to the Lord. Likewise, we are to take the priceless gifts that God has given us and pour them out as a sacrifice in service to him and to our fellow man. This is what the Bible calls stewardship.
For to everyone who has more will be given, and he will have in abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Matt. 25:29).
This is, of course, the parable of the talents. It illustrates accountability, one of the four principles of biblical stewardship. In his article “Living as Faithful Stewards in a Fallen World,” Bill Peel writes,
Jesus told several parables in which he used stewardship as metaphor for how his kingdom operates. Each one ends with the steward giving account of what he had done with the master’s property. In the same way, we are stewards of everything we have been given, including our time, money, abilities, information, wisdom, relationships, and authority. And we will all give account to the rightful owner as to how well we managed the things he has entrusted to 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.