He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
– Jim Elliot

In all four gospel accounts, we read of Jesus calling and making disciples (see Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:40-45). Jesus never spoke of making stewards, yet many of his parables dealt with stewards and their faithfulness or faithlessness. We must examine why Jesus said so much about stewards and stewardship while making disciples, not stewards. Or did he?

Being a disciple (mathētēs) implied a close relationship between the teacher and student. Historically, the disciples chose their teacher; however, Jesus took the initiative and called some of his followers to be his disciples. He emphasized that the condition for discipleship is love: By this all will know that you are My disciples; if you have love for one another (John 13:35). He spoke of the sign of discipleship as obedience when he said, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed (John 8:31). 

Furthermore, he spoke of the proof of discipleship when he stated, By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples (John 15:8). Ellen G. White expounds: Will every soul consider the fact that Christian discipleship includes self-denial, self-sacrifice, even to the laying down of life itself, if need be, for the sake of Him who has given His life for the life of the world? 1

Every disciple would radiate his teacher’s and master’s character, aspirations, goals, and commitments, denying his autonomy of freedom and competence.2 Stott saw the disciples being under the instructions of their teacher and their lord.3 The student had to submit to all the teacher’s influence, and so had to do the disciples of Jesus. Stott reminds us, since Jesus is Lord we have no right to pick and choose the areas in which we will submit to his authority.4 The language of lordship is tightly related to stewardship since there is no steward without a lord. 

When Jesus called someone to discipleship, he was doing what he was sent to do by his Father. Very early in his life, Jesus stated that he has to be about My Father’s business (Luke 2:49). Later in his ministry, Jesus claimed that all things have been delivered to Me by My Father (Luke 10:22). Jesus’ language of Him being a servant/steward is even more apparent when he says, I have come in My father’s name (John 5:43), and as My Father thought me I speak these things (John 8:28). Furthermore, he exclaimed, I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10).

These, and many other verses, contain the steward language; however, the most apparent one is in John 17:4 when he declares to the Father, I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. Only a steward would speak in this manner to his lord and master.

Hall affirms that our stewardship is exemplified by Jesus,5 making discipleship the entry vedge for stewardship. So Hall concludes, The steward exists not only to serve his or her master, but in doing so to serve as well those whose interests the master has at heart.6 While Jesus called and taught his disciples by his words, he was molding and shaping them to be stewards through his mission, life, relationships, and works because stewardship is an identity and a lifestyle.

In the following parts of this commentary, we will look more profoundly at the steward’s identity, his relation to the master, the setting where stewardship occurs, and the limitless impact of the steward’s lifestyle.

Anton Kapusi is lead pastor of Pueblo First Seventh-day Adventist Church. Photo by Pexels.

1  White E. G. Counsel on Stewardship. p. 288.
2  Thomson T. K. (1960). Stewardship in Contemporary Theology. Association Press, p. 47.
3  Stott J. (2010). The Radical Disciple. IVP, p. 14.
4  Ibid., p. 16.
5  Hall D. J. (1990). The Steward: a Biblical Symbol Come of Age. William B. Erdmans, p. 44.
6  Ibid., p. 45.