Stewards and Kings
“Thine office is not ended, do now thine office...” Aragorn to Faramir, J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King.
I'll try to summarize, very briefly, for those of you who haven't read or don't remember reading The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn and Faramir are two of the major characters. Faramir is from the family of the Stewards of the City, while Aragorn is from the long-lost line of Kings of the City. What's been happening for many years is that the City has been ruled by the Stewards, because the last king they knew of had ridden off to battle and never returned. He left no heir, and the people didn't realize there was another family line that could take the kingship. So, they simply let the Stewards rule the city “in the name of the King.” This went on for quite some time. The Stewards passed on their office from father to son, and ruled as if a king, but never sat on the king's throne, and always claimed to seek the returning of the kings.
Now, there was a little bit of breakdown in this, and you can read that in the book. However, as the book works towards its happy ending, Faramir is the Steward, and Aragorn shows up to claim his role as King. So, Faramir stand before the people and Aragorn and states “The last Steward begs leave to surrender his office.” Aragorn gives him the response above: you're still the Steward. You have work to do, and you should do it.
Why do I regale you with this tale? Here's what I've been considering: what things am I a steward of? I'm a steward of my family, the church I serve, the resources God has given me, the freedom I'm blessed with, my own life, well, there's a great many things in the 168 hours a week. Essentially, I'm supposed to be the steward of those hours. As a steward, though, I rule not on my own accord, but in the name of the king. In my case, I should see it as in the name of the King of Kings. I'm not to rule for my own benefit, for my own fame, but rather for the King's benefit and fame.
Of course, what benefit can I offer the King of the Universe? It's not likely that I can increase His wealth or dominion, since He holds all as it is. The benefits I can offer are:
Knowledge of His Kingship: I can benefit my King by pointing out to others that He is the King. Unlike The Lord of the Rings, there is no doubt that King will return, there is no doubt who He is. So, I can benefit my King by helping others be ready for His return, helping them to embrace His kingship, that He returns, not in wrath, but in joy.
Contending for His Kingdom: I can benefit my King by contending for His Kingdom, but there's a major danger here. Actually, two major dangers: 1.) That I confuse contending for His Kingdom with contending for my own personal glory or benefit. This is unacceptable, for perhaps my King has a plan that brings glory to Himself at the cost of my own glory? Who would I be to go against His wishes? 2.) That I contend with methods unfit for my King. The means are important for Christians. Why? Well, the ends are already set: Jesus Christ returns, vanquishes evil, and it's all over with. All we can address are the means we use in our stewardship of the life we have. Let me not contend badly, even if for the right purpose.
Honoring His Kingship: This ties in closely with the second danger under contending, but it broadens beyond the role of contender: I have a responsibility to see to it that I do nothing to embarrass my King. Now, sometimes I will do so, but I must consider His reputation in all I do. Note, also, the assumption of action: if I'm not doing something, I'm probably not being a good steward. Even times of recreation and rest have a purpose, and action for its own sake is as destructive as sloth, but there should never be only intentions. Actions are necessary.
Now, as Aragorn regained the kingship, the Steward role shifted: the King was there, and his law and rule were apparent instead of having to be discerned. The resources of the King were available, and the Steward no longer had to question whether he was doing right, yet he remained as steward. To me, this pictures, though imperfectly, eternity. Here on earth, there are ways in which the will of the King is not abundantly clear, and I, as steward, must do the best I can to understand what His will would be, and do it. Eventually, though, the King will be visible and apparent, and my stewardship will become much more simplified: He'll be visible on the throne. I'll still be the steward of the life He has given, but there will be no missteps to make there.