Stewardship of Self for Christian Workers:
By Ron Koteskey & Marty Seitz
this as a pdf file
God has called you into ministry, and you may assume
that he will take care of you better than a corporation takes care of its
workers. In your concern about helping others, you do not have to be
concerned about such mundane things as getting enough sleep and taking
time out for yourself, do you? If those you serve see you spending time on
yourself, will that not harm your ministry? In fact, it seems almost
selfish (sinful) to be concerned about yourself, and you would not want to
do anything wrong, would you?
Commanded to love-Ourselves
When asked such questions as what was the greatest commandment or what
one must do to obtain eternal life, Jesus replied that we should love God
with everything we have and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. He
noted that this was more important than offerings and sacrifices (Matthew
19:19; 22:39, Mark 12:31, 33; Luke 10:27). Of course, this was not a new
command that Jesus came up with, but he was quoting what God had said
hundreds of years earlier through Moses. He had commanded us not to look
for revenge or keep a grudge but to love our neighbors as ourselves
because he is the Lord (Leviticus 19:18).
In addition to what Jesus said in the gospels, other New Testament
writers echoed the same thing. James pointed out that if you really want
to keep the law found in Scripture, you will love your neighbor as you
love yourself (James 2:8). Paul also noted that the entire law was summed
up in the one command to love your neighbor as yourselves-and that was how
you would serve one another in love (Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:13-14).
Thus, you are to love yourself-and love your neighbor in the same way. If
you do not love yourself, you may have difficulty loving those you are
called to serve. People who do not care for themselves often have
difficulty caring for others in healthy ways. If God had wanted us only to
care for others, he would have left love of self out. The two are linked
in important places.
Commanded to rest-A Sabbath
Included in the law given through Moses was a Sabbath, a command to set
aside a day not to work but to come apart to rest, to heal, to recharge.
Anyone who desecrated the Sabbath was to be cut off from the people, to be
put to death. Even during the busiest times (perhaps especially then) of
plowing and harvest, they were commanded to rest (Exodus 20: 8-11,
31:14-15, 34:21). This law was not an arbitrary command, but one based on
us being made in God's image, God's resting on the seventh day after
creation, and his blessing that seventh day and making it holy.
Jesus pointed out that God had made the Sabbath for us as human
beings-not us for the Sabbath. Everyone, including Christian workers,
needs a day each week to recuperate from the pressures put on us during
the other six. During the busiest times of ministry when they were so busy
they did not have time to eat, Jesus told his early Christian workers to
go by themselves to a quiet place to get some rest (Mark 2:23-3:6).
Since Christian workers often work the most on Sunday, many take
another day a week off but may work hard on that day doing things that
have to be done-such as mowing lawn, repairing the house, etc. Christian
workers usually do not need to be encouraged to care for others, but they
do often need to be reminded to care for themselves. People in ministry
also need a day to go to a quiet place and rest, recognizing that just
gifts and means of service are diverse, so are means of rest. For example,
one may read a book, another take a run, another watch a video, and
another visit friends. Those who do not take a Sabbath may find that they
become taskmasters rather than servants to those they are called to serve.
Rather than being drawn to someone in whom they see love incarnate, people
may be repelled by someone they see driven to work more than motivated by
Commanded to care for the temple-Ourselves
No place was more important for the Hebrews than the place where God
was. Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days getting instructions on how to
build the tabernacle in which God would dwell (Exodus 25-31). When they
finally followed the instructions and built the tabernacle, God's glory
filled it (Exodus 35-40). Many years later when Solomon built the temple
in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord filled it as well (2 Chronicles 1-7).
Desecrating or destroying the temple or letting it go to ruin was one of
the greatest insults any enemy could inflict, and the whole book of Ezra
is about rebuilding the temple.
When Jesus came, he gave the promise of the Holy Spirit who would not
live in the temple in Jerusalem but in his people (John 14-17). Paul later
wrote about our being God's temple, the temple of the Holy Spirit and God
living in us, and about our making known among the Gentiles that great
mystery, Christ in us, the hope of glory (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19; 2
Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:20-22 Colossians 1:21). Peter pointed out
that we are like living stones being built into a spiritual house (1 Peter
2:5). John wrote about God living in us as well (1 John 3:24; Revelation
As God's temple and his messengers to make known his gospel to those
who do not know him, we have a responsibility to care for his dwelling
place-us. Athletes take care of themselves so they can do their best, and
we must maintain ourselves so that we can be the best temple of God
himself and so that we can be the most effective in bearing his message.
We are not selfish to care for ourselves if our reason for doing so is not
only for our own benefit but is also out of respect for our own value in
God's eyes and so that we stay fit enough to be good servants of others.
What good does it do the cause of Christ if we are out of commission
because we have failed to maintain ourselves? We would likely be critical
of missionaries who did not add oil to their car's crankcase or coolant to
their car's radiator and burned up the engine. How is that any different
from not taking care of ourselves?
Commanded to carry others' burdens-And our own load
The Apostle Paul wrote about doing good. He urges us to restore a
brother or sister who has fallen, to carry each other's burdens, not to
become weary in helping others, and to take every opportunity to do good
to all people, especially to believers (Galatians 6:1-10).
However, we must also note that in the middle of that passage, he urges
each of us to test our own actions, to carry our own load. We each have a
responsibility to do what we can to take care of ourselves rather than
abandoning that task to others. At times taking care of ourselves may seem
burdensome, and it can require time, effort, sacrifice, and inconvenience.
But Christian workers who do not take care of themselves often require
others to abandon part of the work God has called them to so that they can
take time and effort to take care of the ones who did not maintain
themselves. Such people become "high-maintenance" persons who
drain the resources of the church, school, mission agency, etc. They drain
resources given to reach others for their own restoration, resources that
could have been used to reach more people for Christ. People who are too
busy to take care of themselves often seem to think that God's work would
come to a standstill if they took time to keep a Sabbath or to care for
Evaluation of your stewardship
Take some time to evaluate yourself on how well you are keeping each of
these basic commands. Use the following scale to rate some of the things
we have talked about:
4 = Excellent (Always)
3 = Good (Frequently)
2 = Fair (Sometimes)
1 = Poor (Seldom)
0 = Absent (Never)
1. Do I keep an effective Sabbath for myself each week (a day I devote
to doing something that refreshes me)?
4 3 2 1
2. Do I get enough sleep so that I am not sleepy the next day?
4 3 2 1
3. Do I exercise to the point of perspiration 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a
4 3 2 1
4. Do I eat moderate portions of healthy foods 3-5 times a day?
4 3 2 1
5. Do I monitor my health and seek appropriate medical help promptly?
4 3 2 1
6. Do I have enough consistent nurturing relationships with other
4 3 2 1
Improving your stewardship
If you rated yourself at two or lower on any of the above, you would do
well to seriously consider improving your stewardship. Even ones rated at
three can be improved. The best way to begin is to find out exactly how
you are doing is by recording in a journal each day specifically how you
did on items on which you rated yourself low. In addition to asking God to
search us, know our thoughts and our ways (Psalm 139: 23-24), we may
uncover things that need changing about ourselves by monitoring our own
If you find that you are actually deficient in an area or areas, a good
approach is to set small, specific, measurable, attainable goals for
improvement. Trying to completely remedy all your shortcomings at once is
a sure recipe for failure. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he began by
sending them to the towns ahead of him; then he sent them further into the
surrounding countryside, then into a neighboring country, then into the
world (Luke 10, Acts 1:8).
Finally, find out all you can about your shortcomings in Scripture,
books, and even on the Internet. All truth is God's truth, and learning
what people have discovered in God's natural revelation in his created
world complements what he gave us in his revealed Word. The discerning
person seeks knowledge (Proverbs 15:14).
We have heard a story about a lumberjack back in the days when they cut
trees by hand and were paid by the trees cut. Monday and Tuesday he had
cut eight trees each day, and it occurred to him that he could increase
his pay by getting up an hour earlier and cutting a tree before breakfast.
Sure enough, he cut nine trees on Wednesday. On Thursday he also skipped
breakfast thinking he could cut down an additional tree, but he only cut
down eight trees. Trying to increase his output more on Friday, he decided
to also cut a tree after dark rather than relaxing with his buddies in the
bunkhouse, but he was only able to cut down seven trees. On Saturday he
did not add any new hours, but he cut his foot while cutting by lantern
light. He cut down only six trees on Saturday. Of course, he could not
take time to see the camp doctor, but he decided he could increase his
output for the week if he worked on Sunday. However, he was tired, hungry,
missing his friends, and his foot was hurting, so he cut down only five
trees. Monday morning, he went to see the foreman, told him he was not cut
out to be a lumberjack. He quit his job and went home. Do you know anyone
on that same path? (Perhaps you?)
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