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The Marks of a Steward
Texts: Hebrews 11:8-12; Romans 4:13, 18-21; Matthew 6:24; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 5:2, 3; Luke 16:10-12
February 10, 2018

Facebook is working to establish itself as trustworthy by asking its users to vet news outlets in its news feeds. After months of criticism over fake news, the social network announced last week that it’s asking users to assess the trustworthiness of news sources via surveys, and then promote or demote the websites in the News Feed algorithm accordingly.

There are only two questions. First, “Do you recognize the following websites,” with only “yes” or “no” options in response. It then follows up with “How much do you trust each of these domains?” The possible answers are “entirely,” “a lot,” “somewhat,” “barely,” and “not at all.” The survey has attracted the ire of some journalists. “Trust in news is much more-complicated,” tweeted Bloomberg reporter Sarah Frier. “How well-sourced is the article? Are other sites verifying it? Is it news or analysis?” Guardian editor Dave Earley chimed in: “Come on. This is a joke, right?”

By treating news sources as trustworthy or not, it means that those that publish a mix of news and non-news content could be penalized. BuzzFeed publishes everything from deeply reported investigations on targeted Russian assassinations on British soil to quizzes about “What Do You Love Based On Your Zodiac Sign?” One of these is a trustworthy, researched news story. The other one is clearly just for fun, but it could contribute to a negative overall perception of the website’s trustworthiness. In a blog post published in late January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “...we decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective.” Facebook is apparently making a big bet on the wisdom of the crowd. Sometimes that pays off, but sometimes the wisdom of the crowd is dead wrong. [1]

Trustworthiness, according to this week’s lesson, is a key character trait of a true Christian steward. The Bible gives dozens of examples of people that God entrusted with duties or material means. How well they fulfilled their responsibilities reveals their deeper Christian character. According to Thursday’s lesson, “Trustworthiness is the crown jewel of ethics.” The strange case of Ananias and Sapphira comes to mind. It wasn’t the amount of their offering that was their downfall—it was their lack of trustworthiness revealed by their misguided deception that exposed the corruption in their hearts.

The other marks of Christian stewards studied this week include faithfulness, loyalty, conscientiousness and obedience. These marks of a true Christian steward are character traits that we would probably like to see in all of our relationships, from family members and friends to co-workers. Our stewardship practices in our church life gives us the opportunity to become those types of people ourselves. “This (trustworthiness) quality does not appear overnight” states Thursday’s lesson, “but comes over time by being faithful in even the little things.” Those practices always pay off.

~ cb

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-survey-assessing-trustworthiness-2-questions-2018-1

~ For Reflection

Connection: If God’s kingdom had an application process and wanted applicants to list their characteristics, what would be the top-five characteristics needed?

Sharing: Read Matthew 6:24. Jesus warns us about trying to Q serve two masters. What is His concern? We can’t focus on Jesus and something else at the same time. We are single-minded. 
 We will hate God if we are committed to something else. 
 We will be half-hearted in our faith and actions as believers. 
 We will be easily distracted from God and will not live godly lives. 
 We can’t be loyal if we are double-minded. 

Applying: As a group, plan an outreach event for your church neighborhood within the next month. Through this event, you will attempt to demonstrate the characteristics of a believer to your neighbors. What will you do?

Valuing: Jesus warned about having two masters. Besides God, what master is working hard at gaining your allegiance? Are there any changes needed in your life to make Jesus your only master?