"For look, how many souls in thy house be,
The Christian home is a stewardship. The parents are stewards of God. A steward is a servant of a particular kind, to whom the master commits a certain portion of his interest to be prosecuted in his name and by his authority, and according to his laws and regulations. The steward must act according to the will of his master, in his dealing with what is committed to his care. Such was Eliezer in the house of Abraham; and such was Joseph in the house of Potiphar. One of the specific duties of a steward was to dispense portions of food to the different members of the household, to give servants their portion in due season, and to superintend the general interests of the master's household.
In a religious sense, a steward is a minister of Christ, whose duty is to dispense the provisions of the gospel, to preach its doctrines and to administer its ordinances. It is required of such that they be found faithful. -- 1 Cor., chap. iv.
In its application to the Christian home, it expresses its relation of subordination to God, and the kind of services which the former must render to the latter. The stewardship of home is that official character with which God has invested the family. In this sense the proprietorship of parents is from God. They are invested only with delegated authority. Their home is held by them only in trust. It belongs to them in the same sense in which a household belongs to a steward. It is not at their absolute disposal. It is the "household of the Lord," and they are to live and rule therein as the Lord directs. They are to appropriate it and dispose of its interests according to the known law and will of their divine Master, and in this sense, yield, with their whole household, a voluntary subordination to His authority.
As a stewardship, God has entrusted the Christian home with important interests. He has committed to her trust, body and soul, talents and means of grace. He has entrusted to the parents the training of their children both for time and for eternity. These children are the heritage of the Lord; they are not at the absolute disposal of their parents; but merely entrusted to their care to be educated and dealt with according to the will of God.
There is one great peculiarity in this stewardship of the Christian family, -- the absolute identity of interest between the Master and the steward. The interest of the former is that also of the latter; and the latter, in promoting the interest of his Lord, is but advancing his own welfare. Such is the economy of the gospel, and it is this which makes the servitude of the Christian so delightful. Faithfulness to God is faithfulness to our own souls. Parents who are thus faithful to God must be faithful to themselves and to their children. Thus, then, the interest of God in our families is the welfare of all the members. When we act towards our children as God directs, we are but promoting their greatest welfare. This is one prominent feature of God's mercy towards us in all His dealings with us. He identifies His interest with the interest of His people. This is a powerful incentive to parental integrity, and is beautifully exemplified in the mother of Moses. When the daughter of Pharaoh said to her, "Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will pay thee thy wages," was not the interest of the queen and the nurse the same? In nursing him for the queen, that devoted mother nursed him also for herself; and in doing this, she was also promoting the welfare of her son, and executing the will of God concerning him. This illustrates the principle of stewardship in the Christian home. Of every child, God says to its parent, --
"Go nurse it for the King of heaven,
Here is the important trust; here, too, is the duty of the steward. It is a trust from God, and the nursing is for God. The child is a tender plant, an invaluable treasure, more priceless than gold, or pearls, or diamonds. Your duty as a steward, is to nurse it, to cultivate it, to polish the lovely gem, to take care of it. And in doing this for God, are you not also doing it for the child, -- yea, if you are Christian parents, -- for yourselves? Will not even natural affection, as well as the discerning eye of faith, like that of the mother of Moses, detect in this stewardship an identity between the interest of the Master and that of the steward? It was not the simple compensation which stimulated the mother of Moses to accede to the proposition of Pharaoh's daughter. What cared she for the "hire," if she could but save her son! This was her great reward.
Thus the interest of the child should be the reward of the parent. God will, it is true, reward the faithful steward of the family; but He specially rewards and blesses parental faithfulness in making His purposes concerning home, identical with the parent's and the children's welfare. In this domestic stewardship,
"Like warp and woof, all interests
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Who, then, is that faithful and wise steward whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when He cometh, shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that He will make him ruler over all he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, my Lord delayeth His coming, and shall begin to beat the men-servants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; the Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant which knew his Lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten with many stripes."
Here, then, we have the character and duties of the steward in the Christian home, the rewards of their faithfulness, and the penalties of their unfaithfulness. As the stewards of God, we must be faithful, giving the souls as well as the bodies of our children "their meat in due season;" we must not "waste the goods" of our Lord, but be "blameless, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to filthy lucre, but a lover of hospitality, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word as we have been taught." As the faithful stewards of God, we should dedicate our household in all respects to Him, and make it tributary to His glory. "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things shall be added unto you." The unjust steward will first seek the world and the things of the world, its gold, its pleasures and its honors; and after that seek the kingdom of heaven. But this is reversing the order of procedure as prescribed by the Master; it is running counter to His will, and, consequently, wasting His goods.
But the greatest trust committed to parents is, the souls of their children; and hence their most responsible duty, as the stewards of God, is to attend to their salvation. You should "give them the bread of life in due season." It will be of no avail for you to inquire, "What shall they eat, and what shall they drink, and wherewithal shall they be clothed;" if you neglect this their highest interest and your greatest trust? "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" It is not the wealth, nor the magnificence of life which will make your home happy; these are but the outward and fleeting ornaments of the world, and are too often the gaudy drapery in which demon guilt and misery are clothed.
"The cobwebbed cottage, with its ragged wall
if souls are there "fed upon the sincere milk of the word," and "trained up in the ways of the Lord." The training of the soul for heaven is both the duty and the glory of our homes. What if parents lay up affluence here for their children, and secure for them all that the world calls interest, while they permit their souls to famish, and do nothing for their redemption! Will not such parents be denounced in the day of judgment as unjust and unfaithful stewards? And yet alas! how many such Christian parents there are who prostitute this highest interest of home either at the altar of mammon or of fashion! The precious time and talents with which God has entrusted them, they squander away in things of folly and of sin, leaving their children to grow up in spiritual ignorance and wickedness, while they resort to balls and theaters and masquerades, in pursuit of unhallowed amusement and pleasure.
Such are unnatural parents as well as unjust stewards, and their homes will ere long be made desolate. Other parents prostitute the holy trust of home to money. They are "self-willed" stewards, "given to filthy lucre," who, for the sake of a few dollars, will "waste the goods" of their Lord, make their homes a drudgery, and work their children like their horses, bring them up in ignorance, like "calves in the stall," and contract their whole existence, and all their capacities, desires and hopes, in the narrow compass of work and money.
We would direct the attention of such parents to our last thought upon the stewardship of the Christian home, (the practical view of which we shall consider in the next chapter,) viz., that it involves the principle of accountability. It implies a settlement, a time when the Master and his steward shall meet together to close accounts. "Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward." That time will be when "the dead, both small and great, shall stand before God." Then He will examine into your stewardship. He will ask you how you employed your talents, and to what purpose you appropriated those interests He committed to your trust; and whether you were faithful to those souls which "hung upon your hire;" whether you "nursed them for him," and whether you provided them with "their meat in due season." And if you can answer, "Yea, Lord, here are those talents which thou hast given me; behold I have gained for thee five other talents. Here, Lord, are those children whom thou hast given me; I have brought them up in thy nurture, and trained them in thy ways." Your Lord will then answer, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things; behold I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"
But if you have been unfaithful as stewards, and have made your household unproductive for God, then you shall hear from his lips the dreadful denunciation, "Thou wicked and slothful servant!" "Take the talent from him, and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath!"