Stewards of Grace

These guys knew how to do it right.

So, kings and queens, now that you know you’re sitting on the throne, how are you going to rule? You’ve been charged to rule with nothing less than the steadfast, long-suffering love of the King Himself. Where will you find the strength and where will you begin?

Here’s a good starting point from our friend, Saint Peter:

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins. Practice hospitality ungrudgingly to one another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who utters oracles of God; whoever renders service, as one who renders it by the strength which God supplies; in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”(I Peter 4:8-11)

Here’s what I think Saint Peter is sharing with us:

This Peter knew what comes with great power, too.

  1. Recognize that you have been given grace, and be thankful. To be a good steward, first off, you have to realize what a huge responsibility you have been given. Maybe you don’t remember it, but there was a day in your life when you were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit—when you were given the authority to rule as a temporary ruler. A sort of coronation, if you will. That same Spirit is constantly renewing you with His grace, guiding your conscience, drawing you to repentance, and healing your wounds. To cultivate, grow, and share our gifts, we must first humbly and thankfully turn to the True King, bowing down before Him, kissing His hand, and thanking Him for trusting us with such grace.
  2. Use your powers for the good of others. Peter tells us to serve one another according to the gifts we’ve been given. A good steward is constantly looking for ways in which whatever he has been given can be shared with those around him. As God’s grace is varied so that each of us has something unique to offer the world, this can happen in a million different ways….each day. Ask yourself, “How can I bring God’s grace to this person? This problem? This moment?”
  3. Ignore the bad stuff whenever you can. Nobody likes to be remembered for the time they totally lost their cool or did something really dumb. Would you really want those you care about constantly replaying in their minds that time you really messed up? No. So don’t do it to those around you, either. “Love covers a multitude of sins” means that when you really strive to love someone with Christ’s love, you don’t even notice their little mess ups. When you do notice, you make excuses for them, you let them off the hook. Just as God grants us His grace in spite of our many sins, as His stewards, we must be gracious to those who sin against us.
  4. Give freely. “Be hospitable,” St. Peter says, “but don’t do it out of obligation.” That’s not real love. Give freely of yourself as the King has freely given to you. Remember all that has been entrusted to you as the temporary ruler, and find ways to show the King’s subjects that He loves them through your love for them.
  5. At the end of the day, give it up to Christ. As a steward, it’s part-and-parcel of the job that you don’t take the credit for things going well. All of your efforts are put in to please the King, to make sure that everyone loves and respects Him, not you. After all, you are simply a servant carrying out the affairs of the King according to His commands. There’s no room to get haughty about the job. Instead, practice turning over the glory in prayer: “Glory to God for all things, especially those things which I, with the grace I have been given, was able to offer this day.”

This week’s challenge: cultivate the grace you’ve been given by multiplying it among others. 

The Interim King

Have you ever said a word so many times that you start to question whether it has any meaning any more?

Broccoli. Broccoli. Broccoli. Broccoli. broccoli. broccolibroccolibroccoli

Know what I mean? Well, I think that sometimes this is a problem we have in our spiritual lives. We’ve heard so many times to be merciful or to love others or to repent that it’s all sort of blurred together, and when a moment comes along in our lives where we could have been merciful or loving or repentant, we walk away kicking ourselves for forgetting what that means. I know I’ve had this happen in my life too many times to count.

Does anyone understand that metaphor anymore?

Well, I’m about to throw down one of those words that’s running through our minds like a broken record:

Stewardship.

Your mind has probably already been flooded with a string of old sermons, bulletin inserts, and “campaigns” you heard about when you were a kid. But have you ever taken the time to think about what a steward really does?

In a world where this title is pretty much only mentioned in relationship to church fundraising, it’s easy to get confused or zone out when the topic gets brought up for the nth time.

A steward was the guy that basically ran the affairs of a king or lord. He was the one who made sure everybody in the house ate and got paid and did their jobs. And when the ruler was away, the steward was the one to represent the king and even sometimes govern in his name. A sort of interim king. Now, the steward wasn’t someone of high rank—he was a servant in the king’s household—but the king trusted that the steward would run his household and his dominion with the king’s values. When he returned, he expected to find his home not only in order, but made better by the steward’s leadership.

This guy was probably the worst steward ever.

So you’re probably getting the picture by now. When the Lord appoints us to be stewards, He is saying, “You are my most trusted servant. While I am away, I expect that you will care for my dominion in the same way that I would care for it myself. And I won’t be gone forever—when I return, I expect a full accounting of what went on while I was gone.” You are Christ’s interim king.

Whoa.

And let’s not forget, Christ is the Ruler of All. Everything we have is on loan to us from God, and He has set us up as stewards, as temporary rulers, over these things. It’s our job as stewards, then, to prepare all things to be offered back to him. They’re really His in the first place, after all. This means preparing and caring for our bodies, minds, and hearts, our thoughts, our skills, our families, our churches, our society, our environment…quite literally everything. No big deal. Oh, and don’t forget the part where when our King returns, he’ll expect to find things not only in order, but made better (remember that parable about talents?).

But here’s the best part about being a Christian steward: we have the chance to bring the King home. For us, the King is only away when we are acting like bad stewards, when we ignore our duties to care for His creation with the love and mercy which He shows us. When we act like good stewards, when we take our responsibility as interim kings and queens seriously, we make Christ present in ourselves. True Christian stewardship is to be able to say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ in me.”

What does Christian stewardship look like in your life?