Whenever I think of the word steward I think of the Lord of the Rings. In Lord of the Rings there is a character whose position is the Steward of Gondor. His job is to be the caretaker of his city, Gondor, in the absence of the true king. What I love about the concept of steward is that it is both, at the same time, a position of great authority and great humility. Paul speaks about his role as a steward of God’s mysteries and as such he has authority among the churches. But his authority is completely foreign to him–it is not his own. He is not there to teach of his own wisdom. He preaches the cross. Paul doesn’t go to the churches as he sees fit, rather he goes where God has called him. So as a steward he has power, yet it is humble through and through, for it is the power of God that he is entrusted with.
This is why Paul goes on in this chapter to say that he isn’t accountable to the church. A steward must be found faithful, but it is a faithfulness to the one who has given the power. Paul is a steward of the mysteries of God, and he is then accountable to God. God is the one who judges faithfulness. The churches do not judge him, Paul himself won’t even judge.
Going back to Lord of the Rings for a moment, the character ends up getting into trouble because he is not respecting the position he has and seeks to claim more power than is due to him. He wants to go beyond the authority he has as steward and rule on his own. He wants to occupy the throne of the king. In doing this he is not found faithful.
This is just what Paul is seeking to avoid. In verse six as he writes, “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” A steward that goes beyond what is written is going beyond the role of steward. It is dangerous territory of pride and ego. That is the downfall of the steward in the Lord of the Rings.
Paul’s intent should be ours, as well. We’ve been blessed with God’s word and what he has given us in it is sufficient. We veer toward sin when we step beyond Scripture and begin to speculate, innovate, or even delete. This quote from John Calvin from his commentary on the book of Romans says it well,
Let this then be our sacred rule, to seek to know nothing concerning it, except what Scripture teaches us: when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther.
God has entrusted us with much. He has given us his word but has also given each of us the life we live. To be found faithful we must seek to be good stewards, humbling acknowledging that all we have is truly God’s. We must also as stewards humbly accept what God has shown us and how he directs us, and make it our aim to trust his will, not looking to go beyond his perfect wisdom. After all, as we’ve learned in 1 Corinthians, our wisdom cannot compare to his own. God’s wisdom in the cross of Christ may seem foolish, but it is the power of God; it is our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.