In the fifteenth chapter of Lukes Gospel there are three well known parables which are clearly linked together: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. In the first of these we learn of the danger to the lost, in the second the value of the lost, and in the third the poverty of the lost - repentance, recovery and restoration are all to be seen. It is, however, not always noted that the parable at the beginning of Luke 16 follows on from what had gone before. In ch.15 the Lord Jesus is speaking to publicans, sinners, Pharisees and Scribes (vv.1-2), but in the following chapter He speaks to His disciples (16.1). Following the lessons of ch.15 the listeners are reminded that after repentance there comes responsibility. Thus we have the parable of the steward who was responsible for the management of his masters goods.
The message, therefore, is for those who have learned the lessons from the returning prodigal and from the steward of the household. Not only have they an honoured position, but they are given responsibilities from the Master, responsibilities that must be recognised as they are clearly set out in Scripture. The steward in the parable had failed to handle his masters goods wisely, and is, therefore, a warning to which all must pay heed. There is also the solemn fact that the way in which we discharge these responsibilities is noted by the Lord and there will come a day when He will ask us to "give an account of thy stewardship" (16.3). The account will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Individually we will stand before Him as stated by Paul: "every one of us shall give account" (Rom 14.12), and "Every mans work shall be made manifest" (1 Cor 3.13).
There are three mentions of stewardship that are worthy of careful consideration. First, Paul states that he and others were "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4.1). The mysteries to which he refers are not those of Matthew 13. They are the mysteries, not revealed in Old Testament days, but revealed subsequent to Pentecost, such as that of the Church being the "body", the rapture, the setting aside of Israel for the present, the fulfilment of the prophecies regarding her in the Millennium, and the glory of conditions on earth at that time. These truths are all to be found in Pauls epistles. It may be argued that the stewardship referred to in this connection was that of the apostles, but today these truths still have to be defended, indeed the complete volume of the Book has to be guarded. It is vital that the Word of God is taught accurately and defended strongly by those who are His stewards.
Second, Peter writes, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God" (1 Pet 4.10). Everyone has spiritual gift and Peter exhorts his readers to use the gift or gifts given in their dealings with other believers. The manifold grace of God ensures that there will be many different ways in which the grace of God can be exhibited for the benefit of each other. Stewards are those who have been entrusted with that which is of value and will use it for the benefit of the master alone. Self-seeking, carelessness and laziness must always be avoided. His interests are supreme.
Third, Paul, writing to Titus, states that an overseer "must be blameless, as the steward of God" (1.7). Particular attention is now given to those who seek to guide and lead an assembly as overseers. This is not a "promoted post" to be sought, but rather it is serious responsibility to be undertaken. How greatly it is needed today! He must set a good example, be above reproach, have a home that is orderly, and be prepared to give of his time and of his resources. An elder in Scripture is described in three ways. He is an overseer, carefully examining and watching over the saints; he is an elder, one who is spiritually mature; he is a shepherd, one who has the spiritual capacity to lead and guide the saints. How assemblies cry out today for such leaders!
There will come a moment when we hear the words, "Give an account". Let us work today so that we will not cast our eyes down in shame before Him when we hear that call.