This month my wife and I become the proud owners of our first home. Ta-dah!
Aint she a beauty? A little late to ownership, perhaps, seeing how a 30 year mortgage means I could still be paying it off at age 72. (Happy thought indeed!) Still, it feels good to have that piece of the American dream checked off.
But then I go to Scripture and find a concept that begs me to reconsider this good feeling of proud ownership. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it.” (Ps. 24:1). This ownership concept seems simple on its face. As a Christian, I say, “of course it belongs to God.” But in reality this has always been a revolutionary concept for fallen Man, like me.
How do I reconcile my legal ownership with God’s true ownership and the existence of billions living in abject poverty?
One of the most troubling passages that address this is the interaction Jesus had with the rich young ruler. Christ directs him to liquidate everything and give it to the poor, not because self-imposed impoverishment is a means of salvation, but because telling him to sell all would reveal to this fellow his mistaken belief of ownership. If I’m managing a rental property (the role of a steward), then when the owner decides it’s time to sell, it doesn’t bother me to sell. It’s not lost value to me. Yet when this fellow was told to sell, he went away really distraught because he was “one who owned much property.” He didn’t own it, in a true spiritual sense, but Jesus’ question revealed that he believed he did.
In explaining this interaction to his disciples, Jesus went on about how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Again, it’s not to mean “dirty riches” keep a person out of heaven and only the “blessed poor” can enter. It could mean that it’s improbable for the wealthy to make it in because their wealth sidetracks them. But I think the most reasonable meaning is that it’s impossible for anyone to have eternal life if they fail to relinquish ownership.
Whether I’m rich or poor, ownership is a key component of my salvation experience. I don’t even own me anymore, let alone my things. He lovingly reminds me, “you are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price” (1Cor. 6:20). To follow Christ, I must be on His path of crucifixion and sacrifice. I belong to Him and all that I have is His. Like the rich young ruler, we, the wealthy, don’t like that ownership transfer! Like him, we believe and look very much like we’re His, but if Christ were to pose the same directive to us, our grieving response may reveal that we haven’t relinquished ownership.
Do I own it or does He? – that is the question. So what are you the proud owner of?
(For further stewardship-related thoughts, visit the Think First, Then Give section of our FHlegacy site.)