[Heb., so·khenʹ; Gr., oi·ko·noʹmos].
One placed in charge of the household or of certain property belonging to another. 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. (Luke 16:1, 2, 4) Kings, and many other persons of wealth or distinction, had a steward, and men might vary 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.—Gal. 4:1-3; Luke 16:1-3.
Abraham had a faithful servant, Eliezer of Damascus as man in charge of his extensive belongings, consisting of great wealth of livestock and, at one time, many slaves, although Abraham held no land possessions other than a burial plot. (Gen. 13:2; 14:14; 15:2; 23:17-20; Acts 7:4, 5) Joseph, as a slave in Egypt, came to be in charge of Potiphar’s house. (Gen. 39:1-4, 8, 9) King Elah of Israel had a man over his household in Tirzah. This was likely a custom also of the other ancient kings. (1 Ki. 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, whose wife ministered from her belongings to Jesus (Luke 8:3), and Jesus, in an illustration, referred to a man in charge of the vineyard laborers who paid them at the end of the day.—Matt. 20:8.
The responsibilities and administrative duties of a steward suitably describe the ministry entrusted by Jehovah God to the Christian. Jesus describes his body of faithful anointed ones on earth as the “faithful and discreet slave,” but as a slave they also serve as a steward for him, having had committed to them in these “last days” “all his belongings”—including the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” throughout the earth, and teaching those who wish to hear. (Matt. 24:14, 45; Luke 12:42-44) Overseers in the Christian congregation are “stewards,” and faithfulness is strictly required of them. (Titus 1:7; 1 Cor. 4:1, 2) Paul, as an apostle, especially as the apostle to the Gentiles, had a special stewardship entrusted to him. (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:1, 2) Peter points out to all Christians, overseers or otherwise, that they are stewards of God’s undeserved kindness expressed in various ways, and shows that each has a sphere or a place in God’s arrangement in which he can carry out a faithful stewardship.—1 Pet. 4:10.