Wisdom – The Foundation of Stewardship
With me are riches and honor,Proverbs 8:18-36 NIV
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.
“The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works,,
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
“Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.
Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the LORD.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.
When we seek first the kingdom of God, everything else we need comes to us as a bonus (see Lk 12:31). The pursuit of wisdom has a similar result. When we seek wisdom wholeheartedly, spiritual and material prosperity are natural side effects. The story of Solomon is a good example. He asked God for wisdom, and in addition God granted him wealth and prosperity (see 1 Ki 3:1-15).
Old Testament Wisdom Literature lays out life’s general principles. No single proverb can ever be taken as a guarantee – in this case, that anyone who is wise will also be wealthy. Jesus, who embodies the wisdom of God (see 1 Co 1:24, 30; Col 2:3), became poor by giving up the glory and grandeur of heaven for the incarnation and crucifixion (see 2 Co 8:9). And we are called to follow him even into sacrificial living (i.e., the wisdom of the cross) rather than imitate the world’s brand of ‘wisdom,’ which runs after temporal goods for security and satisfaction. When we imitate Jesus – even to the point of suffering – we know we will share in his glorious reward (see Ro 8:17).
Theologian Holmes Rolston makes the following observations about stewardship in a New Testament context:
“Christian stewardship in its deepest sense is impossible apart from the surrender of man to God in Christ. But when Paul cries out, ‘You are of Christ, and Christ is of God,’ he goes on to say, ‘So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.’ The Christian is Christ’s. He must think of himself as Christ’s man, as Christ’s servant. The Christian is a steward of the great revelation which God has given Christ. The stewardship of the gospel is committed unto him. He shares with other Christians the responsibility of giving the gospel to others. It is required of stewards that a man be found faithful. The Christian must so live that he discharges faithfully the obligations that are laid upon him as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God!”
Any true understanding of stewardship must also involve the stewardship of abilities. If a man has yielded his life to Christ, it follows that the abilities that he has should be laid on the altar of the service of God. Men vary very widely in their abilities. There are some who have one talent and there are some who have ten talents. God does not demand of any man the rendering of an account for the abilities he does not have. But Jesus does lay down the principle that what God expects of us is in proportion to that which He has given us!
The stewardship of possessions must be seen against the background of man’s response to the love of God in Christ! The stewardship of possessions must be seen in the setting of the stewardship of all of life.