Stewardship: Our Lives Are Not Our Own

The New Testament, although emphasizing grace, has hundreds of commands. These are not requirements for salvation, but rather describe the results of salvation—results of God's grace and his Spirit working within us. The new covenant makes comprehensive demands on us—not just one day a week, but an eternal lifetime. Not just 10 percent, but everything we own. Not just outward conduct, but our hearts and minds.

The apostle Paul explained it like this: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Here we have a statement of our obligations to God in the new covenant. That price is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer—he has bought us.

In ancient times, this terminology was used in the slave market, where one person could buy another. If a person could not pay a debt, he or she could be sold into slavery to pay the debt. But if a friend or relative could pay the debt, that person could act as a redeemer, to buy the slave back.

Spiritually, this is what Jesus did for us. We were in debt and could not pay our way out. We were in slavery to sin. So Jesus paid our debt, purchased us with his blood (Acts 20:28), so we should no longer be slaves of sin, but be slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:6-18).

Paul says that Christians are to glorify God in everything they do. "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).  This is a comprehensive command. No matter what we do, we are to bring glory and honor to God.

Paul is talking here about eating meats offered in sacrifice to idols. In verse 28, Paul says that "if anyone says to you, `This has been offered in sacrifice,' then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake." He explains: "The other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience?" (verse 29).

Voluntary limitations

Paul implies that my freedom should not be judged by someone else. But, nevertheless, it is voluntarily limited by someone else. I modify my behavior because of what the other person believes, in this case, about meat sacrificed to idols.

This exact situation may not present itself today, but it illustrates what Paul means when he says all our activities are to be done for God's glory and honor. We serve him by what we do in front of our neighbor. Our decisions about eating and drinking can serve to glorify God in our bodies—but those decisions are shaped in part by the circumstances we are in.

The new covenant does not just give us a list of dos and don'ts—it gives us the responsibility of thinking through a situation to see what brings glory to God, including how we might need to limit our behavior based on the conscience of others.

The gospel does not let us do anything we want. No—far from it. The new covenant limits what we can do not only in our private lives, but even more so in public. The gospel gives us a new perspective toward God and neighbor, a perspective that presses us to do whatever brings honor and glory to God.

Paul says: "I try to please everybody in every way." Does this mean that Paul was a two-faced hypocrite? No, it means he was living out the reality of the new covenant. Notice what he said in chapter 9: "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible..... I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings" (verses 19, 23).

This is the kind of freedom we have in Christ. We are not our own; we no longer just live as we please. We are slaves of Christ, and to serve him, we make ourselves slaves of others.

Property that belongs to Christ

Our lives are not our own. Our time is not our own. Our minds and hearts are not our own. Our relationships are not our own. Our skills and abilities are not our own. They all belong to Jesus Christ. And yet we still must decide how to use our lives, our time, relationships, skills and abilities.

We have the new covenant gift of managing someone else's property. The biblical term for a person who does this is steward.

In the parable of the faithful and wise steward, we see this concept. "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

"But suppose the servant says to himself, `My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

"That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.   From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:42-48).

Everything we have is to be used in the Lord's work. That applies to physical property such as our bodies and homes. It also applies to intangible things such as emotions, relationships and spiritual gifts. Everything we have is the Lord's. Everything we have should be used for his honor and glory.

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