One placed in charge of the household or certain property belonging to another. The Hebrew word so·khenʹ is rendered “steward” (Isa 22:15); mo·shelʹ, which means “one managing,” likewise refers to a steward. (Ge 24:2, ftn) The Greek oi·ko·noʹmos (steward) can also be translated “house manager.”—Lu 12:42, ftn.
A steward might be a freeman or a trusted slave. The ‘unrighteous steward’ to whom Jesus referred in one of his illustrations seems to be pictured as a freeman. (Lu 16:1, 2, 4) Kings, and many other persons of wealth or distinction, had a steward, and men varied as to the degree of authority they gave to their stewards. The Greek word e·piʹtro·pos, “man in charge,” is closely related in meaning, since a steward often had oversight of the house as well as the other servants and the property, and at times over business affairs.—Ga 4:1-3; Lu 16:1-3.
Abraham had a faithful servant, Eliezer of Damascus, as man in charge of his extensive belongings, which consisted of great wealth of livestock and, at one time, many slaves, although Abraham held no land possessions other than a burial plot. (Ge 13:2; 14:14; 15:2; 23:17-20; Ac 7:4, 5) Joseph, as a slave in Egypt, came to be in charge of Potiphar’s house. (Ge 39:1-4, 8, 9) Later, he too had a steward. (Ge 44:4) King Elah of Israel had a man over his household in Tirzah. This was likely a custom also of the other ancient kings. (1Ki 16:9) Shebna was steward over the king’s house in the days of King Hezekiah of Judah, but he was unfaithful and was replaced by Eliakim the son of Hilkiah.—Isa 22:15, 20, 21.
In the Christian Greek Scriptures we find that Herod Antipas had a man in charge of his house; this man’s wife ministered from her belongings to Jesus. (Lu 8:3) Jesus, in an illustration, referred to a man in charge of the vineyard laborers who paid them at the end of the day.—Mt 20:8.
The responsibilities and administrative duties of a steward suitably describe the ministry entrusted by Jehovah God to the Christian. In Jesus’ prophecy concerning the last days, he describes “the faithful and discreet slave,” who also serves as a steward for him, a manager over the household of faith, to give spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Mt 24:45; Lu 12:42-44) Overseers in the Christian congregation are “stewards,” and faithfulness is strictly required of them. (Tit 1:7; 1Co 4:1, 2) Paul, as an apostle, especially as the apostle to the Gentiles, had a special stewardship entrusted to him. (1Co 9:17; Eph 3:1, 2) Peter points out to all Christians, overseers and others, that they are stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways, and he shows that each has a sphere, or a place, in God’s arrangement in which he can carry out a faithful stewardship.—1Pe 4:10.