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Shepherding Our Families as Trustees for God

by Craig Smith

Craig Smith 1951-2011

There is a vision which, to the extent that this vision is thoroughly Biblical, we men must learn to see and then learn to embrace it. Read on and see what you think.

We are trustees, put on this earth to look after and be stewards of everything God has created, and more specifically, those things which He has Providentially placed into our hands and under our roofs. Being a trustee is different from being a creator or an owner or an employee or a slave.

Ultimate owners and all creators have total control over those things they totally own or totally created. All decisions they make, even when consulting only themselves, in regard to how these things they own or created are allowed to exist, utilised or destroyed – including human life – are perfectly valid and proper.

Employees and slaves have only a minimum of responsibility toward those things in their care: their daily activities consist overwhelmingly in doing as they are told.

Being a trustee is different. We have a lot of responsibility, nearly total responsibility, over those things of which we are trustees or stewards. When the owner of these things returns, He will require of us an accounting as to how we looked after His goods. You’ve heard all this before. Re-read the parable of the ten pounds or ten minas in Luke 19:11-27. Being trustees means we don’t ultimately own anything: not our properties, our families, our health: these are all rightly the property of Almighty God. He gives us both commands and guidelines as to how to steward these things, but He also leaves us in the dark as to much of their final disposition. However, the Lord does give us also the ultimate purposes for which we are to be stewarding all these things He delivers into our trustee care: to bring praise and glory to His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17), seeking first His Kingdom and His Righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

The Lord God has peculiarly supplied His people with the authority and the tools we will need to accomplish our stewardship successfully. In I Peter 2:9 we are told that we are “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” There’s the idea of praising Him again. And also that we are commissioned as a royal priesthood, holy nation, God’s own people, etc., giving one the impression that we should be easy to identify. If we are declaring His marvellous deeds all the time, that will set us apart. And in Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, our Lord Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in His Triune Name and teaching them to obey all His commands. II Corinthians 3:18 says we who have had the veil lifted “are being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord Who is the Spirit.” Paul sets us an example to follow, I believe, when he says in Philippians 3:13-14, “But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” We are being changed by His Spirit into His likeness, straining ever onward and upward. I dare say, this will certainly set us apart and attract attention. As a city set on a hill cannot be hidden or a lamp not hidden away but set on a stand (Matthew 5:14-15), as “children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16), we will not only attract attention and be a beacon in the night…we’ll be pretty obvious targets for the enemy as well! You know, if we are doing all this as we are supposed to be doing it, our lives will start to resemble that of the Lord Jesus: always telling others of His Father in heaven, emphasising the difference between worldly ways and God’s right ways and showing even some of the religious folks up as hypocrites. And worst of all, making enemies and catching flak because, just like Christ, we become such a big, easy-to-identify target.

Hey, I think we’re on to something here. Aren’t we promised persecution and suffering as Christians? Plenty of times! See II Timothy 3:12, I Peter 5:9, Acts 14:22, Romans 8:17. The Apostles rejoiced in that they were counted worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ (Acts 5:41). So, to summarize: it seems that we are expected to do a job or fulfill a role on earth, whatever our daily vocation might be, that closely parallels the job our Lord did on earth. And if we are doing the same job as He did , we can expect the same working conditions.

So how does this relate to being trustees? Trustees are acting in the place of the true owner/creator. Jesus, while in the appearance of a mere man, was the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet He caught flak and was hounded and persecuted when He was on this earth. If we’re doing the same job as He did, representing the interests of our Lord and our God, as apparently we’re called to do, we’ll catch flak too. Yes, He drew adoring crowds (though they had mixed motives which He did not trust – John 2:23-25 & 6:15), but whether we draw such crowds or not, we have been promised that we’ll draw flak. Why? Because of this aspect of being a trustee: we represent God’s claim to rule over every square inch of the earth and to reign over every human institution ever established. If we were just doing our own thing, like all the unbelievers around us; if we were just engaged in a hobby religion, like so many others; if we were managing our possessions and families and careers and sports involvements as our peers do, for their own personal enjoyment or personal objectives, there would be no hassle. But as representatives of Christ, we are making it clear that every square inch of dirt we manage, every relationship we have, every ounce of influence we carry in every sphere we inhabit is done for Christ’s glory (not for my personal reasons) and to proclaim that He is Lord of that dirt, those relationships and spheres of influence. This is offensive, because if Christ is Lord over all these things, it means He has claim over all those people who share those things, and as Lord, He can and will call them to account for their involvement with His property. That is the prerogative of Lordship. We rarely think of this aspect of Jesus being Lord: that He is the unrivalled Sovereign, Lord and Master over everything; but that’s what it means.

When our lives are lived in such a way that He is clearly proclaimed Lord over all we do, it is a reproach and offensive to those around us. It appears these days to be particularly offensive if, as trustees of our families, we men shepherd and guide our wives and children into the same regimen of obedience and conformity to Christ’s requirements as we adopt for ourselves. We do this because our lives are not our own, we were bought with a price (I Corinthians 6:19-20), and so we are now mere trustees of our lives which are now to be lived for Christ (Galatians 2:20, Romans 12:1). Our wives and children are not our own but belong likewise to God, Who has given them into our care that we might shepherd and steward and husband them for Christ. “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” (Ephesians 5:23). It is our duty, men, to direct the lives of our wives and children in the manner indicated by the Scriptures.

Two big areas of offence are presented by this. First, that a husband dare direct his wife. Whatever we may personally think about it, the Scriptures are clear about the different roles of husband and wife, so we all need to submit to what the Lord’s Bible tells us to do. It seems to me that husbands have a far greater problem with assuming their responsibility as heads of the household than wives do of submitting to their husbands’ authority. Ever since the Lord pronounced the curse upon the ground and that we men would have to earn our living by the sweat of our brows, we’ve been looking for ways to dodge the work, get out of or minimise every responsibility we can. We are very susceptible to the temptation to see our life’s task as the fulfillment of personal peace, pleasure and prosperity. And how could we be criticised for providing our wives and children with peace, pleasure and prosperity? How? This is how: because God does not direct us to seek these things, but to seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness (Matthew 6:33)…lead on, men.

The second area of offence is that either mums or dads would dare direct their children so closely. Children are today assumed to be autonomous (self-ruling) and that they should have the same “rights” as adults, subject to considerations of appropriate maturity. As soon as parents give their children over to the state school system, the children are taught this. Sadly many parents treat their children the same way, since they too have imbibed this notion. Christian parents should have none of it: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right,” we are told in Ephesians 6:1. Which means parents must be laying down the law for their children’s guidance and instruction.

There is a fact of life that we parents need to come to grips with: our children will be brainwashed by somebody or something: that is, their developing minds will be biased in this way or that way by the attitudes and values and instruction given them as they grow and develop. We parents have the responsibility to direct who and what does this to our children, and as Christian parents it seems to me we should unapologetically ensure that we parents establish in our children’s hearts and minds the presuppositions and biases, the attitudes and values the Scriptures tell us they need to have. I never gave my children the idea that they had a choice to obey God or not, to do as the Bible and their parents required of them or not, to be honest or not, to steal or not. No. They had the same duty as their mum and dad, I told them: to whole-heartedly and consistently obey God in an ever-increasingly faithful manner. Yes, we will fail now and then, but it is a moral weakness, a sin, when we do, for it shows that we listened to and sinfully yielded to the voice of the tempter. When we do what we know is wrong or neglect to do what we know is right, it is not an autonomous choice: it is a moral failure, a falling into slavery to sin, acting unfaithfully toward God. Such a thing is so abominable, the Scriptures compare it to adultery.

So we shouldn’t copy the world and talk to our children as the world does about “making responsible, informed choices” in life: we train our children and ourselves to perform our duties to God. As trustees of ourselves and our families and of our family name, reputation and the heritage we have received from the Lord – just like the fellows in the parable who received the pounds or talents, men – we are expected to do our best to improve and purify and sanctify these things entrusted to us by God. He will call us to account. And we will eventually pass all these things on to our heirs. They too must be trained up – by us – to steward and husband these things as a trustee for the same Lord God. We must be done with the “do your own thing” mentality we most likely grew up with and hear all around us. We keep our family close and hand-craft our family unit into a team of workers committed to helping one another achieve the common Biblical vision, shared by every member of the family, as imparted by us, the fathers.

God Himself appointed us to be the heads of households. We are to ensure our families enhance the vision and extend the borders of the Christian heritage delivered to us (through family growth and evangelism) and to pass it on for the next generation for them to increase it even further. And so on until Christ returns to receive from our descendants’ hands that which is His, that over which we were trustees for Him during our tenure on earth.

Craig & Barbara Smith home educated their 8 children in Palmerston North, NZ, since the first was born in 1980. They helped establish local support groups, published materials, spoke at conferences and ran several national Christian home education conferences before going to work full time for the Home Education Foundation in 1998. Craig passed on to glory in 2011.

This article first appeared in Keystone Magazine

April 2008, Vol. XIV No. 74

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