I remember reading about a rancher who was offended by his pastor’s statement in a sermon that none of us really owns anything, that we are just stewards. So, he invited the pastor and his wife to come to dinner at the ranch after church. At the end of the meal, he took the pastor around his ranch, describing how he had worked really hard to obtain each portion of the ranch and how it now all belonged to him. Then he said to the pastor, “You mean to tell me that I don’t own this ranch?” The pastor paused and then replied. “I’ll tell you what. Ask me again in 100 years!”
During the reign of King Solomon, the queen of Sheba, from southern Arabia, came to observe the King and his household and possessions and his wisdom, to see if the things she had heard about him were true. Solomon was given special wisdom from God and was also the wealthiest person of his time with property, livestock, gardens, orchards, and gold—not to mention his many wives and concubines! After observing Solomon and all his possessions, the queen said, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land…but I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard” (I Kgs. 10:6,7). But now listen to what Solomon wrote about all these possessions he had accrued: “So I hated life, for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me; because everything is futility and striving after wind. Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all of the fruit of my labor…” (Eccl. 3:17-19). Solomon realized, like Job before him, that “As he had come naked from his mother’s womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand” (Eccl. 5:15 cf Job 1:21).
The subject of rightful ownership is a foundational issue in the practice of business and law and in many other areas. The creator of a product or idea is generally the recognized owner. It is thus significant that God’s revealed Word opens with a declaration of ownership: “In the beginning God created…” (Gen. 1:1). This remarkably simple yet profound statement is the ultimate ownership clause. And, lest anyone missed that or didn’t understand, God later wrote it in stone with His own finger! “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and earth, the sea and all that is in them…” (Ex. 20:11). God’s ownership via creation is reiterated throughout the entire expanse of Scripture: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made…For He spoke and it was done (Psa. 33:6,9). “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains…The sea is His, for it was He who made it; and His hands formed the dry land” (Psa. 24:1; 95:5). The Psalmist, Asaph, records God speaking, saying, “Hear,, O my people…I am God, your God…For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills…and everything that moves in the field is Mine” (Psa. 50:7,10,11). The Psalmist, David, wrote: “O LORD, how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all; the earth is full of Thy possessions” (Psa. 104:24). Everything that exists and everything we have comes from God, “…since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 7:25). “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (Jas. 1:17).
Mankind cannot claim true ownership of anything. But we are stewards! Humans, created in the image of God and given capacity for far greater purposes than any other creature, were established by God as stewards of His creation (Gen. 1:26-29). Mankind was commissioned with the dual responsibility of caring for the earth and learning from it and its creatures and applying that knowledge for the optimum benefit of mankind for God’s glory. God has temporarily entrusted us with resources which are to be used to accomplish His work here on earth. As believers, not only will we be held accountable for the use of our material resources, but also for the spiritual gifts God gives us “for the common good” to help build up His church (I Cor. 12:7). And, “to whom much is given, much will be required” (Lk. 12:48). Trustworthy stewardship should be a supreme motivation to all humanity, but especially to Christians who understand its deeper implications in a spiritual sense. When using the “talents” provided by the Lord—whether in skill or wisdom, influence or resources—believers should seek to sow bountifully with an eternal perspective, knowing that faithfulness will reap spiritual gains for His Kingdom (Mt. 25:14-30).
That is why Jesus gave the admonition recorded by the Apostle Matthew: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Mt. 6:19,20). Our physical possessions are only temporary, but what we do to help build up Christ’s Kingdom will last eternally. So, “we can’t take it with us, but we can send it on ahead!”
And, oh, by the way, there is something we do “own” that no one can take from us and that is eternal life which comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work on our behalf. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out..of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (Jn. 6:37,39). “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (10:27,28). As those who are “born again” into the family of God (Jn. 3:3), we become adopted “sons of God” (Jn. 1:12; I Jn. 3:2), and “if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Ro. 8:17). We have “…an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God…” (I Pet. 1:4,5).
Wow, that deserves a hearty “Amen. Thank you, Lord!” By God’s mercy and grace, we have become “heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ.” We have God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense! The Creator and Owner of all things, through His plan of redemption, will share His riches with those who receive the gift of salvation through “The Lamb of God” who was sacrificed to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29). PTL!