Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.
— 1 Corinthians 4:2
When we were growing up, my father often reminded me and my siblings, “As long as you live under my roof, you are going to abide by my rules!”
My parents were wonderful examples and godly leaders in our home. They loved us deeply. However, my father made it very clear who was in charge. We understood that Dad was the head of the home — and, as such, he made the rules. When wills collided and we wanted to do something contrary to his way of doing things, we were reminded that he was the one in charge, not us. Resisting Dad’s rules in one of those moments was like running into a wall of solid concrete. If anyone was going to bend, it wasn’t going to be him — it was going to be us.
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I am so thankful for this lesson that my father taught me when I was young. I feel sorry for children today who are not taught to respect authority at home, because they’re not being adequately prepared for the realities of life they will later face. Because they were permitted to bend the rules or, even worse, to manipulate their way around the rules, they will be in for a big shock when they enter the work world and discover that their boss is not going to bend for them or allow their manipulation. If we love our children, we must teach them that living by the rules is a part of life.
Because my father made the rules very plain, we knew what was expected in our home and we knew the kinds of behavior that would never be tolerated. This knowledge created stability and taught responsibility to me and my siblings. I am so thankful that my parents taught us that we must live by the rules. When my own sons were growing up, I told them the same thing my father had told me: “As long as you live in our house, you are going to abide by my rules.” Today as I look at our sons, I can see the great fruit this firmness produced in their lives. They are authority-honoring, law-abiding, responsible men.
Living by the rules is a necessary part of every realm of life. In the natural, it’s true that your habitual violation of the rules will eventually result in negative consequences or punishment. On the other hand, if you abide by the rules, you position yourself for a life of order, stability, and freedom from enforced restriction. In the same way, God has rules — and if you are a son or daughter in His house, He expects you to live by the rules. In fact, if you refuse to abide by His rules, you will probably never be greatly used by God. He looks for the obedient — those who respect Him, honor His Word, and follow His instructions.
Paul told the Corinthians, “Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). This verse is filled with lots of important teaching, but today I want us to look carefully at the word “steward,” which is so important to understand if you want God to use you significantly in this life. However, first I want to draw your attention to the word “required.”
The word “required” is actually translated improperly in the King James Version. It is the Greek word zeteo, and it means to seek, to search, or to look very intensively for something. It was used as a legal term to denote a judicial investigation, and it could even refer to a scientific investigation. It denotes an intense and thorough searching for accurate, concrete facts, not a mere surface investigation. The King James Version says, “Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful,” but the Greek could be interpreted, “Moreover, God is making a concentrated, exhaustive, and thorough search in pursuit of stewards who are faithful.”
Because the word zeteo is used, we know that the high caliber of stewards God is seeking is not abundant in His house. Such “stewards” are so uncommon that God must search thoroughly and exhaustively to find those who respect, honor, and abide by the rules of His house. Just consider what it means, then, when God does find the rare treasure called a faithful steward. No wonder “…the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9 AMPC)!
Now let’s focus on the word “steward.” This word in Greek is oikonomos, which is a compound of the words oikos and nemoo. The first part of the word, oikos, is the word for a house. It expresses the idea of a real physical residence where a family resides, including the residents, furniture, finances, property, and household items connected to that particular family and home. Because the word oikos is all-inclusive not only of the house, but also of its residents and their possessions, finances, affairs, and everything else in or connected to that particular house — it is often translated household, which correctly conveys the idea of this Greek word.
The second part of the word oikonomos is the word nemoo, which means to dispense or to administrate. It is derived from the word nomos, which is the Greek word for law and refers to anything laid down, ordered, established, or made into law. It depicts standards, norms, or laws that are firmly established, publicly accepted, and categorically expected. These rules are to be respected and followed. Violating such a rule of law would result in penalty.
When the word oikos and nomos are compounded into one word, as in First Corinthians 4:2, the new word formed is oikonomos, which means the rule or management of a house. In the Old Testament Greek Septuagint, the word oikonomos depicted leaders so trusted by the king or state that they were appointed to administrate entire departments or nations. In secular documents of that time, the word oikonomos is translated court officials or palace officials, and it described anyone entrusted with a public office. As public officials, they were to set the supreme example of honoring the law in their private lives, households, and personal affairs.
Over time, the word oikonomos was applied to household stewards. Household stewards were individuals entrusted with managerial responsibility in wealthy homes. It was their job to run the household in an orderly fashion and according to the rules set forth by the owner or to administer the rules of the house. The word “steward” could designate the gatekeeper, the chief concierge, the head janitor, the head cook, or the chief accountant. These were not mere laborers, but directors of departments who had oversight, responsibility, and who were therefore accountable for areas entrusted to their care. Most importantly, they knew, respected, and followed the rules set forth by the one in authority over them, and they made sure others in the household followed the rules as the head of the household expected.
In the New Testament, the word oikonomos appears only ten times. A key example is Romans 16:23, where it is used to describe a brother in Corinth named Erastus. In that verse, Paul referred to a brother he called “Erastus the chamberlain of the city.” For historical purposes, I want to note that a marble slab with an inscription identifying Erastus as the chamberlain of Corinth was discovered buried in the remains of ancient Corinth.
The word “chamberlain” that described this brother and leader in Corinth is the word oikonomos, which clearly tells us that Erastus was the chief administrator of the city. For a Christian to hold such a title in the pagan world of Paul’s time was very rare, but this shows that the Christian influence was beginning to be felt on every level of life. As the chamberlain, manager, or administrator of the city, Erastus was responsible to know the law, live by the law, enforce the law, and apply the law to others. If you take this meaning into First Corinthians 4:2, where Paul discusses “stewards” in God’s house, it unmistakably means that God is seeking leaders who know His rules and live by them, who set themselves as an example for others by applying His rules in every situation, and who therefore teach others how to live by those rules as well.
The word “required” precedes the word “stewards,” and it comes from the Greek word zeteo, which implies a thorough search. This emphatically means God is ardently seeking people who are committed to His Word. When He finds a man or woman who knows the Word, honors the Word, and follows the Word in every situation, He has found the type of person to whom He will give authority and responsibility. The fact that this individual knows the rules and lives by them demonstrates to God that he or she can be trusted with greater responsibility.
Just as my father reminded me that as long as I lived under his roof, I was going to live by his rules, God also expects us to live by the rules of His house. We must remember that we are His sons and daughters in the household of faith. It is our obligation and responsibility to live under God’s roof according to His rules. I assure you that if we are out of sync with God’s Word, He isn’t going to bend to accommodate us. We are the ones who must change and conform to Him.
Especially if you are a leader or if you desire to be a leader who has influence on others, it is imperative for you to know and to live by God’s rules and to ensure that these rules are honored by all under your charge. If you are a person who already does this, throw up your arms and rejoice, because God is searching for you and is about to tap you on the shoulder to do something marvelous! I assure you that God is listening to your prayers — and He is watching to see if He can trust you with a bigger assignment. If He finds you faithful, a new assignment will soon arrive at your door.
However, if you are sloppy about how you apply God’s rules to your life, you need to be honest with yourself and realize that the big break you’ve been hoping for may still be very far away. For God to give you a big assignment, He needs to know that He can trust you to live according to the rules of His house!
I encourage you to take an honest survey of your life and examine every detail to see if you have been honoring God’s Word and obeying it as strictly as you should. If not, then make this your opportunity to repent. Follow your repentance with change, and know that God will watch to see if your repentance is genuine. Once your heart is set to do your best to keep His rules, a new assignment will soon be on the way. But never forget that before God gives a big assignment to someone, He carefully observes his actions to see if he is living according to the rules of His house.
Since this is true, wouldn’t it be wise for you to examine your life before the Lord to determine what HE sees as He watches you?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for making me Your child — and today I am renewing my commitment to live according to the rules of Your house. It is a great honor to be Your child. I want to honor You by being obedient to You. I want to understand Your rules — what they mean, why You require them, and how to apply them to every situation in my life. When You look at me, I want You to see me as a child of God who is ardently doing all I can to honor Your rules, to live by Your rules, and to help others honor and obey them too. In my own flesh, it is impossible to do it all, but with the help of Your Spirit who dwells inside me, I can do what You expect and live in a way that brings glory to Your name. Holy Spirit, today I am turning to You for help as I endeavor to honor God in the way that I live under His roof.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am Christ-honoring and Word-keeping in the way I live and conduct my life. The Holy Spirit empowers me to think right, to do right, and to order my life according to the law of God. I am not a law-breaker — I am a law-abiding child of God. When God sees me, He finds me to be faithful and honoring of the rules that are so very important to Him. I am thankful to be saved and honored to be called a child of God. Therefore, I will do everything in my power to honor God in the way I live in His house and under His roof.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of areas in your life where you are sloppy in your obedience to the Word of God? Have you been cutting yourself too much slack in areas that God doesn’t take lightly? What are those areas, and how long have you been sloppy in your obedience to these important issues?
- If you were God and you were looking at your life, would you consider yourself to be a law-keeper or one who tries to bend or get around the rules?
- For you to genuinely repent, what necessary changes do you need to make in your life? God already knows the truth about you, so why don’t you take a few minutes today to be honest with God and with yourself so you can begin to make the changes He wants to see in your life.