The Burden of Ownership*

Have you ever been convicted by the words of your mouth? Have you ever said something and immediately heard a voice say to you, “That’s true, so why is it that you’re not living like it?” Sometimes the most powerful convictions and most profound revelations are initiated by the words we speak.

A few years ago, I was sitting at my desk, speaking with one of my volunteers about the difference between ownership and stewardship. I recall passionately sharing that God, in His infinite wisdom, gave people the easier job of stewards while maintaining the more difficult position of ownership. 

I used an example of a business owner and his employee, explaining that the employee has the easier job. He leaves work every day and doesn’t give any thought to the job until he returns the next day. But, the owner stays late, gets up early, and rarely stops thinking about the business. Why? Because, as the owner, he’s the one responsible for its success. The responsibility of ownership demands almost constant attention.

the burden of ownership.png

As I finished speaking and the volunteer started responding, a text appeared on my phone, which was on the desk in front of me. It read, “Mary’s check bounced.” Mary (not her real name) was one of my tenants. A few years earlier, God led my wife, Natalie, and I to purchase a duplex to increase our giving. We had been saving the surplus for a couple of years, thinking God would lead us to give to our church or some ministry. Instead, God had us use the money to put a down payment on this rental property and then give all the profit from it to ministry, which we’d done. In a true sense, we were managing this real property for God.

A flurry of thoughts rushed through my mind as I read the text:

“Mary wrote me a check knowing it was going to bounce!”

“She’s going to skip out on a couple of months of rent, move out and leave the place a mess!”

“What if I have to evict her?”

“This is going to cost me a fortune!”

As the anxiety in me was building, and my thoughts were rushing to irrational conclusions, I had totally lost focus of my volunteer, still talking to me, although I hadn’t heard a word he said. There I was having a private meltdown when God’s voice broke through, “Hey! If I want to lose money on MY property, what’s that to you?”

With that one phrase, I was not only startled out of my mental distress but given a perspective on the meaning of ownership that I’ll never forget.  

OWNERSHIP IS A HEAVY BURDEN WE WEREN’T MEANT TO CARRY

Ownership belongs to God. The Bible says in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” I’m really glad I’m not ultimately responsible for the world or its people. Only God can handle that big of a burden. When I act like an owner, worry, fear, and anxiety are always present because there are many things I cannot control. We are not created for the responsibility that comes with ownership. We play a part, but the heavy lifting, thankfully, is the Lord’s.

GIVE UP THE CONTROL

The tendency to behave like owners comes from the desire to control, mostly driven by our fears, although it can also be caused by pride. We fear losing something, so we tighten our grip on it. We must accept that we are not in control, but God always is. We can trust God with our present and our future. And, even if we lose something, it is not a loss to God. He still owns everything! 

EMBRACE YOUR ROLE AS A STEWARD

God’s given us the easier part of this equation. As stewards, we can only manage what we’ve been given, no more, no less. We don’t have to create something out of nothing, sustain and make things grow, or ensure a good outcome; that’s entirely up to God. Our part is to manage what we’ve been given faithfully. Through His Word, God even provides us the wisdom for the task.

When God spoke to me that day, he did two important things. First, he reminded me who He is, the property owner, and the one responsible for its outcome, good or bad. Second, he reminded me that my part was to manage it for him faithfully. If I do my part, even if a financial loss should occur, God won’t lose anything; it’s still all his. Most important, I’m never graded by the result, only on my faithfulness to accomplish my part.

Take an inventory of your life. Is there anything you’re managing with an owner’s mentality? The best way to recognize these is to look for things that cause you to worry, get stressed, and become anxious. If you see these in your life, release your control and give back the ownership to God. Then, faithfully accomplish your role as a steward, managing those things God has put into your care, so you’ll experience more joy, peace, and fulfillment.

*Leo Sabo, Christian Stewardship Network; October 29, 2020.


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