Stewarding God’s Grace
“if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;”
Ephesians 3:2 NASB
In the British culture, Paul’s words could be viewed as verging on arrogant, but from what we know of his story that is far from the truth. He is confident in who the Lord has called him to be, he is confident in the grace he has been given.
It is helpful to remind ourselves of what grace means. In my early days as a Christian I was given the definition of grace as:
God’s unmerited favour
or when contrasted with mercy:
mercy is not getting what we deserve and grace is getting what we don’t deserve.
Both are satisfactory definitions and are part of the evangelical vocabulary, but neither allowed me to connect with the fullness of what the word grace means. I later came across grace defined as:
God’s empowering presence to be who I am meant to be and do wshat I am meant to do
The former definition made sense in light of Christ’s work on the cross but when I heard others and myself pray for grace it didn’t seem to always make sense until i heard the the latter definition, this allowed me to grasp the concept. I can pray for God’s unmerited favour, I can thank God for giving me what I don’t deserve, but to pray for Gods empowering presence to be what I am meant to be and to do what I am meant to do made a lot more sense and allowed me to pray with greater confidence.
Grace is a gift (the Greek word for grace is charis that means gift) and all gifts of the Lord (with the possible exception of privately speaking in tongues, though you could argue otherwise!) are for the building up of others (1 Corinthians 12:7).
So, getting back to where we started, Paul is confident with the gift of God’s empowering presence, given to him for the building up of others. He then uses an interesting word, stewardship. He has been given stewardship of God’s empowering presence for the building up of others. All work of the Spirit is to build others up, God’s empowering presence in Paul was for the building up of the church and the people of God, specifically the Gentiles. Paul recognises that he is a steward, a manager of God’s empowering presence. He is responsible for the gift God has given.
This then implies that as a steward with responsibility I get a choice to do something or not with what I have. Isn’t that what the parable of the talents is all about? We have a choice, we can use the grace given to us or we can bury it. Using it will mean a multiplication. Burying it will result in decay and loss. Sometimes I think we have a poverty mindset that makes us keep hold of it in case we lose it. But that is not inline with Kingdom values or principles, (Matt 10:7-8), freely we have received therefore we should freely give.
Paul is so confident about the Grace given to him that he says to the Ephesians ‘surely you have heard’. It is not an arrogance but a confidence in how God has used Him, and confidence in the gift of God within. It is a false humility to not walk confidently and to doubt what God has done and is doing in us and through us.
But, it can be a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Godly confidence is humble, yet assured, steadfast and unwavering. It is not puffed up but it is sure and resolute. Arrogance is repelling, it shouts above the crowd, look at me, it has an exaggerated sense of ones own importance and leaves an unsavoury taste in the mouth.
All the gifts of God, stewarded well will bring life and empowerment to others. The grace that God has given to me will also be a grace to you if I steward it well. And if I steward it well I will receive the reward of multiplication and the receivers will receive Gods empowerment to be and do what they are meant to be and do.
It all sounds so simple!