“If there is one who is irreproachable, a husband of one wife, whose children have faith, not open to the accusation of reckless living or undisciplined behavior, for it is required that the overseer is irreproachable as God’s steward, not intractable, not short-tempered, not violent, not greedy, but hospitable, a lover of good, prudent, upright, pious, disciplined, being devoted to the faithful Word as taught, that he might be able to exhort people in doctrine that is sound and reprove those who deny it.”
What does Paul mean when he speaks of the Elder as “God’s Steward”? The word that we translate as “steward” is οίκονόμος (oikonomos — the word we get “economist” from in English) and it refers to one who manages a household or an estate. Though the steward does not have the actual authority of the master himself, the master invests authority in him for the purpose of managing day to day affairs. In this way, the steward speaks with the backing (if not the authority) of the master.
In a similar way, the Elders, then, are given the task of ordering the affairs of God’s household. They are in charge of making sure that all things are in order as the Master would have it. Notice that final clause… “as the Master would have it.” A steward must order his Master’s house in such a way as pleases the master…else, he will soon lose his role as steward. The same applies to the household of God. The Elder must see that the actions and events of the household of God are done in such a way as please Christ, who is the Master of the Church.
How does the Elder know how to order the activities of the church in such a way as would please the Master? To begin with, things are never done for pragmatic reasons. They are always done because they comply with the Master’s instructions found in the Scriptures. And hence, once again, Paul also reminds us that the Steward of the Master’s house must be irreproachable, for his character reflects the character of God. If you are curious as to just how seriously that God takes this, you might check out the account of Shebna and Eliakim (Isaiah 22:15-25)