Who Owns What? Understanding Stewardship
When I attended Green Valley Church of God back in the 60s, I learned a word. That word was stewardship. Rev. Robert Royer taught me that word. I thought stewardship was about money and giving to the church. It took me a long time to understand what Brother Royer had taught me those many years ago, or rather what he had tried to teach me.
When we understand stewardship, we will have a better understanding of what God expects of us when it comes to money and giving to the church, but stewardship is so much bigger than money and giving.
When we use the term “give” or “giving”, we mis-lead ourselves just a little bit in our thinking about money and stewardship. What do I mean by that?
In order to give something, we first have to own it. We cannot give something that does not belong to us. When we say we give a tithe to the church, we muddy the waters just a little about stewardship.
The world, society, and our flesh teach us that we own things. Even our everyday language, when we talk about things, we speak in terms of owning things: my house, my car, my crocks, my life, my body.
To a certain extent, this language in unavoidable. When we buy a car, we get a title, telling us the car belongs to us. As far as society is concerned, the title proves who owns that particular car. Of course, if you borrowed money to buy the car, it does not really belong to you until you pay off the loan.
As followers of Christ, our problem comes, when we forget who really owns what. We use the language of the world when we are dealing with the world. We must constantly remind ourselves that even though we speak in those terms in order to be understood in the world, that language does not reflect the truth about ownership and stewardship.
As followers of Christ we need to be sure our attitude, and what we teach our children, reflects what God wants for us. We need to understand who really owns what. Read with me words of David. He is nearing the end of his life. He has wanted to build a temple for God and God said no. He has gathered materials to do so and has given instructions to his son Solomon who will be king when he is gone.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13
10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
"Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. (NIV)
God wants us to understand that we own nothing. Everything belongs to Him. When we speak of stewardship in the church, we are speaking of this truth. God owns everything. We are His servants and all that we do needs to reflect the truth of who really owns everything.
A steward is one who manages another’s property. As followers of Christ, we are to continually remind ourselves that we own nothing. We must remind ourselves of the truth that all God has placed in our keeping is to be used for His purpose. We are stewards of our life, our bodies, our time, our talent, and our possessions.
Even using the term possessions can mislead us if we are not careful. All that we are and all that we have has been entrusted to us by the true owner of all that exists. We are His servants to do His will for His purpose.
Those who have no god look at the world and decide for themselves what is right and good. They set their own standards. Some of them have very high standards; they are good people.
As God’s people, we do not have the right to decide for ourselves what is good and what is evil. Our Lord has given us His Word to guide us to the truth.
The truth is we belong to Him. We are stewards of the life He has given us. Whatever comes our way, we are to see it as an opportunity to praise and glorify our Father.
Our Father, the God who created All Things, has proven to us that He loves us and that it is a good thing that He is our Lord. He expects us to acknowledge His ownership of all things, including our very lives, our very existence.
So, you see, stewardship entails so much more than giving a few dollars to the church, or being pleased with ourselves if we attend worship services a few hours a week, thinking we have done our duty to God.
The idea of stewardship is that we are servants of the Most High God. We are not our own. Our things do not belong to us; we are merely servants who seek to use what He has entrusted to us for His honor and glory.
24:1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. (NIV)
Who owns what? As we become mature in our relationship with the Lord, we come to understand that we need to remind ourselves each day that we are not here for our pleasure. We are not to discover our purpose in life on our own. We belong to the One Who Created us. We exist for His pleasure, His honor, His glory.
As the Israelites finally crossed over into the land God had promised to Abraham’s descendants, God spoke to them through His servant. Listen to a portion of His message:
6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land — a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God. (NIV)
Stewardship is more than giving money, or time, or talent, to the Lord. We cannot give what we do not own. Who owns what? God owns everything. He gives the strength and the ability to produce wealth. It all belongs to Him.
The proper attitude for someone who follows Him, who is living with Him as Lord, is to develop and maintain the understanding that we are stewards and not owners. We must examine our attitudes about our time, our talents and our ‘possessions’.
If God is truly our Lord (and He is whether we accept it or not) we must adjust our attitude and move a little closer to the standards He sets for us. God loves us and He is our Lord. Understanding that we are His stewards is part of what it means to live as His disciples, that is, people who are learning to follow Him; to believe that He loves us and that it is a good thing that He is truly the Lord of our lives.
Stewardship has as much to do with what we do with what we keep as it does with what we give. It has to do with our attitude about all of life. Who owns what? Are we living with the right attitude? Do we see ourselves as owners or as stewards? Do the choices we make prove to us, to God, and to the world, that God loves us and He is our Lord?
Until you understand the principle of stewardship, you cannot truly be obedient in the giving of tithes and offerings.
Your attitudes and actions about who owns what really do matter.