Sunday: Stewards in the Old Testament

The word “steward” itself is translated only a few times in the Old Testament. In most cases it comes from the phrase regarding the one who is “upon the house,” the idea of being in charge of the running of a house; that is, a “steward” (Gen. 43:19Gen. 44:1Gen. 44:41 Kings 16:9). 

Joseph the Steward

Image © Classic Bible Art Coll. Goodsalt.com

Stewards had responsibilities to manage household affairs and their master’s possessions, doing whatever was asked of them. The definition of a steward in the Old Testament can be found by identifying the characteristics of a steward. Stewards cannot be separated from their stewardship, for it reveals their identity.

Some characteristics of a steward are made clear in the Old Testament. First, the position of a steward was one of great responsibility (Gen. 39:4). Stewards were chosen because of their abilities, and they received respect and trust from their owners for getting the job done. Second, stewards knew that what had been entrusted to them belonged to their owner (Gen. 24:34-38). This is the supreme difference between a steward and an owner. Stewards understand their position. Third, when stewards took for their own use what had been entrusted to them, the relationship of trust between them and the owner was broken, and the stewards were dismissed (Gen. 3:23Hos. 6:7).

Read Isaiah 22:14-18. During Hezekiah’s reign, Shebna was appointed steward, as well as treasurer, both very important positions of authority. What happened to him as a result of his abuse of his position?

“A steward identifies himself with his master. He accepts the responsibilities of a steward, and he must act in his master’s stead, doing as his master would do were he presiding. His master’s interests become his. The position of a steward is one of dignity because his master trusts him. If in any wise he acts selfishly and turns the advantages gained by trading with his lord’s goods to his own advantage, he has perverted the trust reposed in him.” – Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 246.

How can we better learn the important concept that we are indeed stewards of what we possess in this life? How should this realization impact all that we do?
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Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons