Caretakers

“Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:1,2).
In October the elected government of Bangladesh completed their five-year term of office and resigned, handing over administration to a caretaker government. The term and authority of this administration are strictly limited, with its primary responsibility being the conducting of elections within a specified period of time. They have no jurisdiction or power to engage in other functions except those particularly designated and necessary to the ongoing administration of the country during this period.
When Jesus, having been crucified for our sins and raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, he “gave gifts to men … for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:8,12,13). All authority was and is vested in Jesus himself (Matthew 28:18). In his absence, however, he has designated limited authority and function to believers, that his work might be done and his and the Father’s names be glorified.
The concept of a “caretaker government” seems very close to Paul’s self-designation in 1 Corinthians 4. “Consider us … stewards” (i.e., overseers, managers), he says. And remember that stewards are required to be faithful. Caretakers are watched closely. They are not allowed to overstep their bounds or exceed their authority. Neither are Christians. God has taught us carefully how we are to live, what we are to do in his service, and how we are to conduct ourselves towards others. We must stay within those limits.
Whether we use the term caretaker or steward or servant, we also are reminded that we are given oversight of that which belongs to another. Nothing for which we have responsibility is truly ours. It all belongs to Christ (Colossians 3:3,4; 1 Corinthians 6:20). This applies to our possessions, our talents, our relationships, our opportunities, our bodies, and our lives. Jesus is returning, and when he does he will claim all as his (Philippians 2:10,11). At that time our faithfulness will be examined and we will be judged “according to what (we) have done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10b). If we have squandered that which belongs to him, or even if we have neglected to use it profitably (Matthew 25:26-30) we will be held to account.
The caretaker’s job may seem to be somewhat unfair. He has great responsibility with only limited authority and not much prospect for personal gain. Why should he accept such a position? There are many answers to this question, but two take precedence. First is his regard and commitment to the one who commissions him. Caretakers are selected by the departing prime minister or similar head of state. It is an act of trust, and from the caretaker’s perspective, a declaration of loyalty and devotion. One serves his prime minister out of respect, duty and, possibly, friendship.
The second primary motivation is devotion to the population (nation). Government must continue. Certain functions must be carried on or all will suffer. Elections must be held and stable, permanent government assured. Any patriotic citizen should be stirred by such need, and, if one has the ability and opportunity to serve, that need compels acceptance of the responsibility.
Surely the application is obvious. There is no head of state more loved than our Lord, Jesus. There is no need more compelling than that of the billions of lost souls yearning for the Gospel of peace. Given a similar commission, the prophet Amos responded, “The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8). May we answer likewise!

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Michael Brooks

Since 1988 Mike and his wife Brenda have been involved in foreign missions in South America, Africa, and South Asia. Beginning in 1999 they devoted full time to missions, primarily in Bangladesh and Nepal.

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