The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1 (NIV)
Again it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags of gold, to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.” His master replied. “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!” The man with two bags of gold also came. “Master,” he said, “you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.” His master replied, “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!” Mathew 25: 14—23 (NIV)
I often tried to consider myself an aspiring “servant” leader. You know the one, working behind the scenes, willing to get his hands dirty and not needing credit. But after studying “Stewarding the Life God Entrusts” by Ascending Leaders as part of a small group I am in, I wonder if “servant” is the appropriate term to describe the type of leadership I should strive for.
In the Old Testament, a “steward” was the one entrusted with the responsibility to make decisions based on what the master would do. A “servant” did not need to know the master well to complete a task, he just did as he was ordered. The better the steward knew the master, the better he could make choices in the absence of the owner that best represented the owner and most appreciated the assets according to the owner/master’s desire. A servant is reactive, but a steward is proactive, looking ahead and choosing to act in the interests of the master. God is the owner of everything, including the relationships he has allowed us to influence. As a “steward” leader I am clearly managing resources that do not belong to me. I believe stewardship calls for accountability for my leadership. I also believe that the motive for my leadership should be to develop resources and help them grow, which especially includes everyone and everything in my sphere of influence.
As a teacher, husband, father, grandfather, and friend, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, I really want to keep getting to know the Master more intimately so I can truly help those in my sphere of influence appreciate to their maximum potential as assets in God’s kingdom.
Thank you for this helpful treatment of the stewardship model as an ideal for Christian living. It’s one we see over and over again in both testaments, and I think it helps us guard against the lurking belief that we are in charge, that what’s given to us really belongs to us, that it’s all up to us and we’re on our own. thank God! We need that help and that reminder.
There are two temptations it doesn’t help us guard against: the temptation to believe we’re in charge of other people, and the temptation to believe we know best.
Still, I much prefer the stewardship model over the usual “servant leader” model. It strikes me that we have merely covered our desire to be in charge, to be powerful, with pious language about how leading is really being a servant. Yet leaders have not put themselves last and set the least in the place of honor instead. On the whole, we haven’t wanted to serve, just to “lead”–that is, we want to be in power. We want have our way. Petty tyrants at the helm of personality cults often teach authoritatively about servant leadership. But that’s a far cry from Jesus getting up from his place of honor at the table, stripping off his party clothes, and washing his students’ feet.