Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. (1 Corinthians 4:1–2)
The apostle Paul had a complicated relationship with the Christians in Corinth. He founded the church in that city and poured into them for a year and a half – longer than he stayed in most places. Yet many among the Corinthians had a low opinion of Paul.
In these carefully chosen words, Paul showed them Corinthians how to have a proper regard – not too exalted and not too low – of himself and the other apostles.
Paul asked that he, and the other apostles (us), be regarded by the Corinthians as servants. There are several different words in the language of the New Testament to describe a servant. Here, Paul used the word hyperetas, describing a subordinate servant functioning as a free man. He did not use the more common word for a servant (doulos) which designated a common slave.
The word hyperetas literally means an “under-rower,” in the sense that someone was a rower on a big galley ship. So, though it is not the lowest word for a servant, it certainly was not a prestigious position. It’s a place a bit lower than the “over-rower.” A rower on a galley ship simply did what they were required to do, and they worked hard. That’s a good picture of how Paul and other apostles served Jesus and His people.
In addition to servants, Paul asked to be considered as stewards, who were the managers of a household. In relation to the master of the house, stewards were slaves; but in relation to the other slaves the steward was a master. They planned and managed the work, the finances, the strategy, and the records of the master.
What did Paul and the other apostles “manage” in the household of God? Among other things, they were stewards of the mysteries of God. They “managed” (in the sense of preserving and protecting) and “dispensed” (in the sense of distributing) the truth (mysteries) of God. Whenever Paul heard criticism of his style or manner, he could simply ask, “Did I give the truth to you?” As a good steward, that’s what he first cared about.
For stewards, the important thing was faithfulness – to be found faithful. They had to be efficient managers of the master’s resources. A steward never owned the property or resource he dealt with; he simply managed it for his master and had to manage it faithfully.
Today, God people (especially those responsible to lead in some way) should have the same attitude: “Consider us servants and stewards.” As servants, they shouldn’t think too much of themselves, and work hard. As stewards, they should faithfully manage on behalf of their Master.
We don’t need more celebrities and superstars; we need more faithful servants and stewards. If we faithfully fulfill those roles, God will be honored, and His kingdom will progress.