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Did You Know?

Did You Know?

What role did stewards play in Bible times?

IN Bible times, a steward managed the household or property of another person. The Hebrew and Greek words translated “steward” sometimes refer to an overseer or a household manager.

When Joseph, a son of the patriarch Jacob, was a slave in Egypt, Joseph became the steward over the house of his master. In fact, his Egyptian master “left everything that was his in Joseph’s care.” (Gen. 39:2-6) Later, when Joseph himself became a powerful ruler in Egypt, he appointed a steward over his own house.​—Gen. 44:4.

In Jesus’ day, landowners often lived in cities away from their agricultural estates. So the landowners appointed stewards to oversee the day-to-day activities of the laborers who tended the land of these estates.

Who was qualified for the position of steward? The first-century Roman writer Columella advised that a slave who was appointed as an overseer, or a steward, should be “one who [had] been tested by experience.” He would be an individual who had “such qualities of feeling that he [would] exercise authority without laxness and without cruelty.” He added: “This above all else is to be required of him​—that he shall not think that he knows what he does not know, and that he shall always be eager to learn.”

God’s Word uses the figure of a steward to illustrate some of the activities that take place in the Christian congregation. For example, the apostle Peter encourages Christians to use their God-given abilities “in ministering to one another as fine stewards of God’s undeserved kindness.”​—1 Pet. 4:10.

Jesus himself used the example of a steward in the illustration recorded at Luke 16:1-8. Moreover, in a prophecy about the sign of his presence as King, Jesus assured his followers that he would appoint a “faithful and discreet slave,” or “faithful steward.” The main assignment of that steward would be to provide a steady supply of spiritual food for Christ’s followers during the time of the end. (Matt. 24:45-47; Luke 12:42) We are grateful to be among the recipients of the faith-strengthening publications that the faithful steward prepares and makes available worldwide.