At times a powerful, essential teaching of Jesus is based on an illustration foreign to the American culture. In our study we stressed that servants (as they existed in Jesus' day) do not exist in American society. To understand Jesus' teachings concerning servitude, we did three things. First, we understood that Jesus was born to be a servant. Second, we understood that God expects us to become servants. Third, we learned from the servant Jesus what God expects of us as servants.
When Jesus used servants to illustrate a teaching, Jewish listeners understood his illustration instantly. That does not happen when we listen to Jesus. Before we understand his lesson, we first must understand his illustration.
Jesus expects us to be God's servants. Jesus also wants us to aspire to the highest level of servitude. He wants us to be servants who function as stewards. Our concept of a steward may be too simple: a steward is a responsible, capable servant who is trusted by his master. When our grasp of stewardship is limited to that simple understanding, we miss the depth and significance of being God's steward. This lesson's objective is to expand our understanding of the role and work of a steward.
Read Luke 12:42-48. Carefully note the context of this parable. A man asked Jesus to order a brother to divide the family inheritance. Jesus warned against greed by teaching the parable of the rich fool. He told his audience not to reduce life's meaning and concerns to physical survival. He urged them to live with the alertness that quickly perceived God's actions. Peter asked, "Are you talking to us (the twelve) or to everyone?" Jesus then gave this parable. In this lesson, focus on understanding a steward's life and role.
Read Luke 16:1-13. The context is significant. Luke 15 taught several lessons on the nature and importance of repentance. Luke 15 closes with a parable about a prodigal son, his father, and his older brother. Luke 15 and Luke 16:1-13 deal with the essential subject of repentance. This section begins and ends with the Pharisees' reactions.
Use the information you learned about a steward in these two parables to explain stewardship.
Two New Testament Greek words are translated steward. One means "one who is entrusted with the care or the honor of another person" in the sense of a guardian or curator. This word is found in Matthew 20:8 and Luke 8:3. The other means "one entrusted with a responsibility of the household" in the sense of a manager or superintendent. This word appears several times in the New Testament. Both words are similar in significance.
God appointed Jesus Lord and Christ at the resurrection. Jesus is the Master of all who surrender their lives to him. Christians are servants. Everything belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was God's agent of creation (John 1:1-3) and God's agent of our spiritual recreation (Ephesians 2:10; 4:20-24). As servants committed to God's purposes, Christians seek to serve as responsible stewards. We use everything under our control in God's best interests. We demonstrate our trustworthiness in the manner we use material things for God's glory and purposes. If we find it difficult to use the physical and material responsibly for God's benefit, why should God entrust us with the spiritual?
A major spiritual crisis occurs if we, the servants, regard ourselves as being the owner, the master. The reality of death forever reminds Christians that we use, we do not own. We use to serve and honor the Creator, not to serve and honor ourselves. Read 1 Peter 4:10.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 4, Lesson 3
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