The Meaning of Stewardship

by Tony Evans

God has a house. It’s called his kingdom. That’s his house. And he not only owns the house, he owns everything in the house. Psalm 24, verse 1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof the world and all of them who dwell in it”. God claims comprehensive kingdom ownership of all of creation. He repeats this over and over and over again. In Psalm 89, verse 11, God says, “I own all that the world contains”. In 1 Corinthians 10:26, God says, “I own it all”. In Revelation 4:11, God says, “I own it all”. So if God owns everything, you and I own nothing.

God claims complete ownership of all of his creation. So there are no other owners. There are no other owners. If you grab that, that you own nothing, including your own life ’cause it can be taken. You have now set yourself on a journey of understanding life. Because most people think they own what they don’t own just ’cause they have it. They’re in the vicinity of it. What God has established is a management company. Owners of property have management companies that manage the well-being of their property for them. God has a management company. It’s called mankind. God created mankind to manage what he owns ’cause he owns it all. Before God created man, he had another management company: angels. Before there was mankind, there were angels, and angels managed God’s creation on his behalf until one of the angels went rogue.

Isaiah chapter 14, verses 12 to 14 explains how Lucifer, the shining one, rebelled against God and tried to establish his own ownership on God’s premises and tried to create a joint venture with other angels; a third of all the angels to join him in owning what he did not create and that led to a cosmic kingdom rebellion. Jesus says in Luke chapter 10, verse 18, “I was there when Satan fell from heaven like lightning”. Jesus says, “I was there”. He existed before he was born, when Satan fell, that is, when Lucifer got a name change to Satan. He became the adversary of God. He was kicked out of heaven to the third planet from the sun: Earth. That’s why when you open your Bibles, it says, “And earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep”.

How could there be darkness when God is light? It says darkness was upon the face of the deep. So God had to create light. It says God had to separate the land from the water. Whenever land and water are mixed, that’s called a swamp. Why was the earth in disarray? Because Satan had been kicked out of heaven to earth. So this had become the abode of the devil and his evil ones, but God decided, as owner, to renovate the property. So in Genesis 1, God renovates the property. He calls in light; the sun, the moon, the stars. Separates the water from the land, creating continents, and brings order to a chaotic environment, but now establishes a new management crew, a new group of stewards, if you will.

Psalm chapter 8, verses 3 to 6 says, “And you have made man a little lower than the angels”. That is constitutionally inferior. We can’t disappear. We can’t fly around. We don’t have angelic intellect. We are lower constitutionally than the angels. “But you have crowned him with majesty”. You’ve hired a new crew to look after your works. That’s stewardship. So let me give you a specific definition of kingdom stewardship. This management crew, mankind, male and female, has been duly tasked with protecting and expanding the assets of the owner. Stewardship is protecting and expanding the assets of another. You protect it and you expand it. God has created a kingdom, and his management team have misunderstood their role ’cause they think they own what he’s only given for us to manage.

And whenever ownership and management are in two different directions, there’s going to be conflict. ‘Cause when the manager is doing something opposite to what the owner has prescribed, there’s going to be conflict because the owner is insisting, “You work for me, I don’t work for you”. And so God created mankind to be his stewards, and he would equip them for their stewardship because he said, “Let us make man in our own image”. An image is a mirror. “So we’re going to make them like us so they can mirror us on that which belongs to us, and that is all creation”. So you are part of a… I’ll put it in business terms. You’re part of an association of managers, of stewards.

The Bible calls it stewardship; to protect and expand the assets of another because God is expecting his people to expand what he got started in the garden throughout all of his creation. That’s what God is after. We’re told at the end of chapter , every time God created during each day of creation, he says, “It is good. It is good. It is good”. He comes to the end of creation, and in verse 31 he says, “It is very good”. He has created a management team, stewards, who he wants them to keep him feeling good about what he started with. There’s nothing in any part of your life that you don’t have to go to something already existing to get it, why? Because God packed it into creation. That’s why the Lord says in 1 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7, “What do you have that you have not received”? And then he asks, “So why are you bragging as though it came from you”? Everything you have, you have to borrow from the owner.

God has given you managerial responsibilities. So what does he say in chapter 2, verse 15? “And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may freely eat, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat. For in the day that you eat from it, you will surely die'”. So he tells Adam, “Look, I’mma give you a house in my home. I’mma give you an apartment in my house, and we’re going to name your apartment Eden. It’s going to be where you live. It’s going to be your homestead”. So he gives him a homestead and he calls a homestead Eden. This homestead was a well-treed property, a bunch of trees on this homestead. He says, “Now from every tree of the garden you may freely eat, and I want you to keep it and cultivate it”.

To cultivate means to unlock its potential. When a farmer cultivates the soil, he’s doing it to plant seeds ’cause the seeds are going to produce new things. In other words, “I want you to bring out of it what it can do”. Therefore, let me say this, it is a sin not to maximize your potential. It is wrong not to maximize, under God, the potential of what he’s placed in your sphere of responsibility. The first use of the word free is the garden of Eden by God himself. Because men were created to be free to maximize their potential underneath God with all that God has provided for them to do that with. Adam is a single man. He’s not married yet.

So I always say to the single, if you are not maximizing your freedom as a single Christian, you’re sinning ’cause he commanded him to do it, and he’s not married. So he commands a single man, rather than whining that there’s no mate, “You better use these trees to the max. Eat freely from all the trees. Maximize your potential of the garden that I put you in, the sphere of my ownership that I have given you to manage. I want you to get everything out of creation that creation has the potential to provide you”. Keep it; that means protect it. Cultivate it; that means unleash what it can do. Why would God put a tree in the middle of the garden that could kill you while telling me I got all these other trees I can have fun with?

Let me say a word about the tree. It was a Google tree. It was a Google tree ’cause it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So it was an information center, okay? You could Google any data you wanted on this tree ’cause it was an information center. He says, “I don’t want you to eat of this tree”. But why would I not eat of the tree when it’s got so much information in it, good and evil? It’s got good information. It’s got bad information. It’s a Google tree. Why wouldn’t I take advantage of this tree? Because God wanted to tell his management association and all of the members of it that, “I do not want your basis of knowledge to be knowledge that you reason, I want your basis of knowledge to be knowledge that I reveal. I want you to live by revelation, not human reason”.

The worst thing that the manager can do is put his rebellious intellect on God’s property. I tell my father when I was growing up, dad would tell me to do something and I’d have a different idea and I’d say, “I think”. He cut me off right there. “You think? I don’t remember paying you to think? Uh uh, no, not when your thoughts are competing with my thoughts”. Our world is in chaos today because people are living their lives based on the Google tree, based on their own ability to reason, based on education, information, relationships, who they know rather than the revealed will of God; and God is saying, “This is not your house, and I’m putting it right smack in the middle of the garden so that you are reminded every time you move up and down my creation, it’s not yours. This is mine. I’m just letting you here to manage it for me”.

Now, when God did this, gave man the ability to unpack and to flourish his creation, giving him all the natural resources to do it all, he also gave him the power to give it up. ‘Cause, you know, management groups can quit on you. They can resign. When Jesus was being tempted by the devil in Luke chapter 4, he was being tempted by the evil one in Luke chapter 4, verses 6 and 7. The devil comes to Jesus and he says to him, “If you will bow and worship me, I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth”, and then he says, “’cause they are mine to give”. Wait, man. I thought God owned it all. How could the devil say, “They’re mine to give”? Because Adam handed the management back over to the devil.

See, it’s like this. Okay, by show of hands, how many of you own your homes? You own your homes. No, you don’t. No, you don’t. Uh uh, no. The bank owns your home. The bank owns your home, okay? We’ve all been around people who don’t take care of their houses, who don’t take care of their lawns, who don’t take care of their trash, they don’t take care of it, and the bank gives you freedom to mess it up even though it still claims ownership. God is giving you the freedom to mess up what he created. In fact, he’s given you and me so much freedom, we can hand it over to the devil if we want ’cause that’s what Adam did.

So as a manager, as a steward of God’s kingdom, you are free now to mess up the garden or to mess up the life, to mess up the family, to mess up your world, to become an addict. And just because you were created by God doesn’t mean you don’t have the freedom to be a bad manager. Because the bank gives you the freedom to do that, and so does God. And so, he says, “I want you to live under me and I want you to make my creation fruitful”. The interesting thing about fruitful, he said, “Be fruitful and multiply”. That’s not just having kids. That’s one way you’re fruitful and multiply, but it means to unpack potential that did not previously physically exist.

Okay, watch this. Deuteronomy 28:4 says being fruitful includes what you do with the land, what you do with the pure produce. So he talks about fruitfulness in a variety of different ways. So fruitfulness is everything you unpack that God has created, but watch this. The only way a couple has a kid is that they are intimate. Intimacy produces pregnancy; and the intimacy that produces the pregnancy produces something that didn’t exist before. So a lot of people want God’s rule who don’t want intimacy with God’s relationship. That’s why he says in verse 15, the Lord God. The word Lord refers to God’s relational covenantal term for those who’s designated to rule under him.

So what God is saying is, “You must pursue an intimate relationship in order to express my rule as my manager because the intimate relationship will give you the information for my rule so that I can produce something that was not there when you started”. The potential was there, but your job was to craft it, develop it. A lot of us have good motives, but we’re making bad decisions. ‘Cause it’s not coming from a steward relationship, it’s coming because we think we have the right to do it even though the owner has not given us permission. God says, “I want you to unpack the potential”. And so, kingdom stewardship is our earthly responsibility.

Psalm 115, verses 14 to 16 says, “The heavens belong to God, but earth belongs to man”. In other words, God is up there and we’re down here and he’s expecting us to do down here what comes from him up there because it’s his kingdom, but he’s put it under man’s management. It’s under man’s management, and you can manage it badly or you can manage it well. We are the caretakers of God’s property. Now, what’s the benefit? What’s the consequence? What comes out of this? If you decide, beginning today, you don’t own anything. That’s my challenge, and I know that’s going to get some getting used to because we used to saying, “This is mine”.

It’s yours to manage, not yours to own, okay? He told them in verse 28, “And I will bless them and they will rule”, of Genesis 1. Blessing is the experience of God’s favor. Blessing is the favor of God entrusted to us for ourselves and for the benefit of others. Now, here’s the key. Ruling was tied to relationship reflecting God’s image, and this ruling in concert with relationship for the purpose of managing what God has placed in you is the key to experiencing blessing. If you are opposed to the owner, what you think you own is in trouble.

Now, you may not see it right now, but over time, when Adam and Eve blew it, their whole world fell apart. Emotionally, they were now scared of everything. Their marriage was in trouble. He and his wife were in conflict with one another. It says, “And she will seek to rule over you and you will seek to rule over her. So there’ll be a battle in the house”. It says that she’s going to have pain in childbearing. It says, “You’re going to sweat by your brow when you go to work”. And so what God is saying is, “If you want the full expression of me working in your life, give up ownership. Give up, stop owning you or anything that is under your care. Manage it as according to my will and my Word and our relationship, but don’t claim ownership”.

In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Don’t even claim ownership over your own body”. I mean, that’s how, God gets down to that kind of detail. You don’t own you. You’ve been bought with a price, he says. That why the Bible says, “Lean not to your own understanding. You haven’t been here long enough, don’t know enough. This is mine”. But God now has to contend with a generation of Benedict Arnolds, people who claim God but who work for the opposing management company, who work for the other team while claiming a relationship with God and rulership under God. When God says, “If you will give up ownership and come under my ownership and accept your managerial responsibility, that’s where the blessing is”.

So the question is, how many owners are in the house? Oh, now nobody’s hand goes up. Okay, I understand. But in all seriousness, if you will decide, if I will decide, if collectively we decided, if your family decides, every sphere if you decide I give up ownership, I give up ownership ’cause I’ve tried to own it and it’s not working, give up ownership. Become a manager instead because our owner already owns it and he’s not requesting joint ventures. So why fight it? It’s not available, but management opportunities are.

So the question is, will you give up ownership in terms of God? Become a manager and find out what he wants in every sphere of everything under your sphere of influence. Give him permission to use all that he’s given you to unleash the potential of all you are, all you have, and all over which you’re responsible, and then watch he does in your life, in your world for your good because you will now be giving him pleasure. See, now he’s going to smile and say, “Ooh”, ’cause we all have met people who don’t know their place. We’ve tell them, “You don’t know your place”.

God looks at humanity and says they don’t know their place. That’s what happened at the Tower of Babel. They said, “We will be like God. We don’t need God, we’re going to build a tower and we’re gonna get to heaven ourselves”. The Bible says in Genesis 11, God came down and said, “They don’t know their place. So we’re going to cause havoc”. So all this havoc you see; political havoc, racial havoc, social havoc, kneeling havoc, all this stuff, you see it, it’s God saying, “They don’t know their place”. But if God can get a group of people who know their place, who understands you are a manager, not an owner, and you give it up, you have positioned yourself for the God of the Bible to bless you. So in the words of football, how bad do you want it?

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