Yesterday we looked at the meaning of the Greek word translated in our Bibles as “servant.” Another word Paul uses here conveys the idea of stewardship. We read the translation “those entrusted,” and it actually means “a steward.” We get our word economy from the Greek word Paul uses. The steward was the one who managed the household economy; that is, he took care of the business for whoever owned the house. Paul was explaining that his responsibility included management – managing for Jesus Christ, his master, to whom he would one day have to give an accounting.
When I look at these verses that talk about the ministry, I find that Paul, though he probably would not have used these terms, is really writing about his role in much the same way we would write about a position in a corporation today. If you are talking about a position in a corporation, you talk first about a job description. Then, you talk about performance standards. And finally, you talk about accountability. To whom are you accountable to carry out your responsibilities according to the corporation’s standards? This is exactly what Paul is saying. “You want the job description? An under-rower and a steward. You want the performance standards?” He gives it in the next verse: “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” That is the standard. Do you want accountability? It is to Jesus Christ. He’s the boss of the corporation.
Isn’t it interesting that he says the performance standard is “faithfulness”? That is not the way we write performance standards. We say, “You’ve been marketing your product this year. You’ve sold five, ten, even twenty million dollars worth this year, but next year we want you to improve that by 15 percent.” We think of success in terms of quality and volume.
However, in the Christian life, it isn’t quite the same thing. It’s not to say that God isn’t interested in numbers. When we come to the book of Revelation we read that in that final day, gathered around the throne, there are going to be millions upon millions of people. The King James Version of the Bible says, “…myriads and myriads of people from every tongue, every nation gathered around the throne, singing praises to God.” God is interested in quantity. But, when he gives you a job to do as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he does not say, “You have to have thirty-three conversions this month.” It is not spelled out in numerical terms for us. What Paul says is, “It is required that we be found faithful.”
That means that if you find yourself in a difficult field of labor where there is little receptivity to the Gospel, you don’t have to produce the same kind of results as in a church where people are pouring in from the neighborhood. What is required of a minister is that he be faithful. That means that though you may hang in there, year after year and decade after decade and see very little results from your labor, you are not a failure in the service of Jesus Christ. It is the hanging in there that is faithfulness. God will reward that and honor it in his own time.
The kind of work that begins slowly, and lays the groundwork, and builds into people’s lives the great principles and great foundational doctrines of the Gospel, and does not try necessarily to get a conversion every week – that is impressive, because in time it will grow. Moreover, when it grows, it will remain. It will be the kind of fruit about which the Lord Jesus Christ himself spoke. If that is to happen, the standard must be faithfulness.