Photo borrowed from unknown source.
“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” 1 Corinthians 4:1
Lord, You take us through things, even Your Word, and You pair it with situations in our lives. And You cause us to form questions and pleas and You start showing us things. Then, You bring it up again later, and You take us deeper into those questions and add more questions and take us deeper into You and into ourselves and even into the hearts of others. This is one of those days.
The King James version opens this thought with, “Let a man so account of us…” Now whether I think of it this way or how someone regards us, thinks of us, or judges us, the original word takes us back to the thought. It’s the word logizomai and it means “to have completely certain knowledge.” In other words, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the truth about us should be apparent to everyone around us that we are ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Why? Because that’s what Jesus was for God and Jesus is the perfect image of God and we were created in the image of God so we are to be His image bearers while Christ is not walking on earth. It’s why He put us here! But what does that look like in practical, moment by moment life?
It looks just like Jesus, or at least that’s what our lives should look like. And Jesus was not just a kind person. Jesus was self-sacrificial, always concerned with fulfilling His Father’s desires. He wasn’t concerned with His material needs. He was concerned with the lives of those around Him. He cared for those that others wouldn’t notice. He noticed what others never took the effort to look at. He met the real needs of those around Him because of His love and compassion for them. He ministered.
I’ve already been meditating on what it means to be a minister in Your eyes and I’ve found it entails more than one word and more than one type of servantship. And here I find another of those words, huperetes. It comes from the word for an under rower, one of those rowers pressed into service by the Roman army during times of war. It’s one of those men, chained below deck, following the drum beat orders of the captain as though their lives depended on every beat. Oh, wait a minute, their lives did depend on it. Ray Stedman adds, “And they had to instantly obey his orders because this was a warship. They couldn’t depend on the winds to maneuver the ship in battle — they were too uncertain, they didn’t blow in the right direction, it took too long to change the sails — and so in battle they used the oarsmen. And the ship had to stop suddenly, back up even, turn to the right or left, and be very maneuverable. And therefore the duty of the oarsmen was to instantly obey the word of the captain.”
This is what people ought to see me as, an under rower to You, Jesus. We use all these other words like minister, assistant, officer, servant, I think because we retain some more dignity with these other words. But this is not a calling to our own dignity. It’s a calling to the dignity and honor and glory of God, the One who’s war we are in. Christ must be my captain and I am to respond to him as the conscribed rowers responded to their captain. This is how I ought to respond and depend upon the direction and instruction of You, Jesus. I should be in tune to every drum beat You play.
But it doesn’t stop there. Again, there’s this other word for a type of servant or minister. It’s that word oikonomos again. It’s like the steward that Joseph became. It’s that house distributor or manager, the overseer. It’s the person put in charge of someone else’s house and belongings and personnel with all the responsibilities of the owner of the house, for his benefit.
I think sometimes we get in these ruts where we only want to be one of these, or on the other side of the rut, we don’t want to be one of these. Who wants to submit under a master for every move you make? But we are called to. And even Moses wanted to back out of his position over Israel. It’s a tremendous responsibility. I feel that way sometimes in my life. But the truth of the matter is, we have to accept both as under rower and as overseer because we can’t be either without being both.
In order for me to be a good steward, I first and continually have to learn the expectations of my Captain. I can’t become a faithful steward until I know His heart and His ways, His likes and His dislikes, what He loves and what He hates, His desires, His everything. And why would my Captain want an overseer who didn’t know Him? Why would He want someone who didn’t want things the way He wanted them? What kind of overseer would that be. But what about the overseer who had first been an under rower who had come to value the wisdom and ways of His Captain? Now that would be a different story. That would make for a bond of intimacy as a steward over the house. That would be a steward who still knew how to immediately obey. That would be a steward who knew the Captain’s heart and did it.
I think sometimes we focus on being good stewards about doing things, you know, helping others, and stuff like that. And we need to be. But Paul is reminding us of the importance of the stewardship of the mysteries of God. See, there were these religious groups where you had to be initiated or you couldn’t know their truths. God is calling us not just to be intitiated but to share His truths with others so that they can know. And it’s not just about knowing right and wrong or things to do or not to do. It’s about knowing God. It’s about surrendering to God. It’s the mystery revealed of Your every drum beat, Your every desire, Your every joy.
Now, maybe I’m wrong. That’s very likely. But if in our previous chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul was talking to the church as a whole, I’m wondering why some teachers want to focus on these verses as being primarily for pastors and teachers? What if the truth is that this is what You are reminding every one of us as a believer? What if Joe Smith and Jane Doe and all of the rest of us are all supposed to be this kind of minister and this kind of steward? What kind of an impact would that make on the world? The impact of a believer wouldn’t be confined to within our churches, would it? It would be set loose to go wherever we went as individuals, and wherever we were together in unity. Men everywhere would have the opportunity to say, “Hey, look at that guy! He’s like what I would imagine Jesus as, you know, the way he acts, and treats people and God. And did you hear the things he was sharing about God? I mean, wow! I want to hear more because what they say is how they really live. If I could imagine what God would be acting like, that’s it!”
Why would they say that of people who weren’t “pastors” or “teachers”? Because these stewards had learned what it was to be faithful, not in their own eyes, but faithful by God’s own standards. See, it’s not just suggested or left up to me to decide if I’m going to be faithful or how faithful I will be or whether I’ll just flow with wonderful things to say about my Captain. A steward is required to be absolutely faithful and expected to speak well of his Captain. Now that is a hard calling. But maybe that road of hard knocks as an under rower who chooses to submit and obey and takes the time to allow himself to appreciate the Captain over him, well, maybe that’s the one best prepared to be a faithful steward.
Sometimes those under rowers were educated men, and sometimes they weren’t. Rowing took them all down to the same level under their captain. If I haven’t ever been brought to the level of an under rower before You, Lord, then I’m not ready to become a steward. FirstA things first. Lord, I am still learning. But I am so grateful that that You are the One who determines my readiness. I am so grateful that my Captain chooses, when I get it, to set me free from the chains, and calls me to not only worship Him, but brings me and others to the point where He invites us to share the beauty of that mystery of worship with others. May I be faithful in every area of my life. And never let me neglect that I am still Your under rower.