Stewards – they don’t really do much, do they?

stewardby Brother Keith Becker, Educational Officer Queensbury Lodge 121, Queensbury NY

The Lodge Stewards are exactly what their name implies:  The flight attendants of the Lodge.  They assist Brethren with mobility issues, fetch glasses of water for officers, etc.  During times of Refreshment, they serve meals, clean tables, help in the kitchen, etc.  Their ceremonial duties in the Lodge include assisting the Junior Deacon in preparing the candidate for degrees and in purging the Lodge.

The Junior Steward is seated on the left of the Junior Warden in the South.  The Senior Steward, on the right of the Junior Warden in the South.  They carry rods and their emblem is the cornucopia, symbolizing plenty for all.  During hours of Refreshment, they report to the Junior Warden.  During hours of Labor, they report to the Junior Deacon.

The logical place to start is to ask, “What is a steward?” The word, steward, has an interesting etymology. It literally means, “sty-ward”—the manager of the pigsty. Pretty high quality, huh? In the original Anglo-Saxon it is a pig keeper. Later, it was applied to the person who managed the activities in a nobleman’s hall. He was the ward, or manager, of that place where the king or a nobleman would welcome guests, hear requests, make judgments, hold feasts, and other sorts of things. He was in charge of making sure that there was plenty of food for everybody, and that the guests were introduced and dismissed at the proper times, and so forth.

But over time, a steward’s responsibilities expanded to include the management of the entire estate of the nobleman, or other rich men. If he had a business, then a steward would be the chief manager of that business for him. He would supervise servants or employees. Depending on the sort of business that it happened to be, he would collect rents, or payments; he would keep the books; he would order provisions and supplies making sure that the storeroom was kept well stocked. And, he did many other things that the boss either could not do, or did not need to be bothered with.

The word manager has replaced this term. We do not use steward very much anymore. We have even dropped the term for the stewards and stewardesses on passenger planes; they are now flight attendants. So really, it is a word that just about only has its theological meanings left to it in our everyday life, such as in the parable of the unjust steward.

Stewardship, then, is the conducting, supervising, or managing of something. And it usually means, “The careful and responsible management of something that has been entrusted into your care.” We use is like, “The nation is responsible for the stewardship of its natural resources.”

Or, you have been given a sum of money in trust (a trustee); you would be a steward of that money.

The Bible’s use of the term “steward” is very similar to the dictionary definition of the term. The Old Testament uses a phrase that means, “One who is over a house,” just like Joseph was a steward over the household of Potiphar. Another word is the Hebrew “soken,” means basically the same thing, but it has a more governmental connotation to it. It is an officer responsible for the king’s house. We would probably use the term “treasurer,” or “chamberlain” instead of steward, but it is the same idea. He is the chief officer of a royal court. And in Isaiah 22:15, there was Shebna who was called the treasurer of the court, and he was replaced because he was not being responsible.

If you remember the book, The Lord of the Rings, there was a city called Minas Tirith that had lost its king, and the stewards who were regents over that city ruled that city-state for hundreds of years. And when the king returned, as faithful stewards should be, they turned the city back over to the king.

Other words translated “steward” in the Bible may specifically mean “leader,” “officer,” “commander,” or “overseer.” The New Testament only uses two words for this idea. The Greek words “epitropos” and “oikonomos.” Epitropos means “One to whose care something is committed.” Sounds like steward to me. It is translated as steward, guardian, and even tutor. The verb form, “epotropae” means “to turn over to,” like a rich man will turn over his estate to his steward while he is gone. It is used in a situation with the apostle Paul, in a negative light, when he was “commissioned” by the priests in Jerusalem to go to Damascus and put into prison true believers of the way. He was commissioned—made a steward—of this task, and sent to Damascus to carry it out. This word is also found in Matthew 20:8, Luke 8:3, and Galatians 4:2. They are used generally where so and so is a steward, and that sort of thing.

Now, oikonomos literally means “House arranger; one who arranges the household.” It is also defined as house manager, steward, governor, treasurer, and chamberlain.

You probably noticed that all these definitions are very much the same, both in our usage of the word, the Old Testament usage of the word, and the New Testament usage too. It is very clear throughout the whole Bible that a steward is one who manages something entrusted to him by another, more often by a superior who entrusts things to him. He is accountable to guard, maintain, and even enhance what has been entrusted to him. A steward is always under authority of another, and must report his progress to his superior on occasion. A businessman would not expect to have a steward and not be told what is going on. It is part of his duties. He must report his progress to his superior.

Let us see how it is used in the Bible, and watch these ideas surface.

I Chronicles 28:1 Now David assembled at Jerusalem all the leaders of Israel: the officers of the tribes and the captains of the divisions who served the king, the captains over thousands and captains over hundreds, and the stewards over all the substance and possessions of the king and of his sons, with the officials, the valiant men, and all the mighty men of valor.

Now, this is a steward of a different color. These stewards were considered leaders of Israel. They had in their charge all the riches that David possessed, as well as the possessions of his sons. Notice that it is “stewards,” plural. They needed many money managers to look after all David’s family’s substance. They were extremely trustworthy men to have all this money in their hands to do with as they would, and as David directed them. And, there is no indication that they fell down on the job, because David was able to lay up an incredible amount of materials—gold and silver, precious gems, wood and stone—all for building the temple in Jerusalem. These men did a good job. They were worthy of the trust that David put into them.

Now, this idea of managing money is the main understanding that the Protestants have of stewardship. And, if you read any of their articles on stewardship, you will find that they mostly key in on stewardship of the ministry over the church’s funds. That is good and right, and should be considered. However, even though they seemed to be aware of the more spiritual meanings, not just for the ministry but for the lay members as well, most of their discussions of stewardship seems to end with the using of one’s tithes, and church finances. This is not wrong. But it is only the most rudimentary of the applications of the idea of stewardship. It is incomplete.

The concepts of khalifa, stewardship, and amana, trust, emerge from the principle of tawhid. The Quran explains that mankind holds a privileged position among God’s creations on earth: he is chosen as khalifa, “vice-regent” and carries the responsibility of caring for God’s earthly creations. Each individual is given this task and privilege in the form of God’s trust. But the Quran repeatedly warns believers against arrogance: they are no better than other creatures.

Even the Buddhists believe that we are Stewards of the world, and it is in our care.

So as Lodge Stewards we are charged with every care that the lodge and its members may have. This takes us back to the reference of lodge Stewards being the grunts. Let us not forget that they are the backbone of the lodge and without their diligence to their duty the lodge would struggle and fail.  The Steward is, in my opinion, one of the most important roles and one of the most overlooked by all Brothers. A good Steward will know that he has done his job, by the lack of complaining by the membership and the lack of recognition that they will receive for a job well done.

However, I will say that, the Steward who success will be noticed by the Worshipful Master, and officers, for it would have most likely made his job that much easy, and his year as Master that much more successful.

Be proud to be a Steward and be diligent, for the time we spend in the chairs goes quickly and without our knowledge. Remember that it is up to you to help those who come after you and if you did your duty well you will know every part of what it means to be the Lodge Steward.

About leader

District Deputy Grand Master Saratoga-Warren District 1998-2000; Grand Lodge Leadership Services Committee; Leadership Development Course Coordinator; Vice Chairman Grand Master's Educational Task Force; Vice Chairman Grand Lodge Child ID Committee; District Deputy Grand High Priest 14th Capitular District; Grand Master of the 1st Veil 2010; Grand Master 2nd Veil 2011; Grand Master 3rd Veil 2012 Grand Royal Arch Captain 2013 Grand Principal Sojourner 2014 Grand Captain of the Host 2015 Warren County Historical Society Board of Trustees; Queensbury Masonic Historical Society Charter Member; State Chairman Lodges & Buildings Committee Deputy Grand Master's Advisory Committee
This entry was posted in Education. Bookmark the permalink.