Stewardship VS. Ownership
By Ron

In America we are used to having a refrigerator and cupboard stocked up, and we usually neglect to realize our daily needs. That is one reason why Jesus said that it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven - they do not acknowledge their constant dependency on God's provision, but trust in the   safety of their wealth. Mark 10:17-31.  Our society has accepted the challenge of advertisers to acquire more and more of the world's goods. We have become used to entertainment and instant gratification. We are always confronted with the temptation to covet what others have. Following Jesus and pursuing eternal treasures instead of the popular earthly ones goes against the thoughts and desires of those around us.

The "American Dream" used to include such principles as freedom to worship, to assemble, to speak, to own property, and the others freedoms for which our country was founded. Today, the American dream is usually expressed in the accumulation of material things above and beyond the basic necessities of life. Advertisers are constantly telling us what we need to look good, smell good, have white teeth, where to go to enjoy our vacation, what car to drive to make us the envy of our neighbors, and what furniture to buy to impress our company. They tell us that whatever we have - it is not enough. We desperately need what they are offering for a special price.

Jesus taught that living only for material things is really idolatry.  Such idolatry is very prevalent today. We now call it "success" instead of greed or idolatry. In fact, He said we cannot serve both God and material wealth - Luke 16:13. Advertising has become a call to worship self in our society and buy more .

The world looks at material things as giving meaning to life, and equaling success. But owning does not give meaning to life as Jesus' parable shows. Things of this world become objects to be owned rather than a matter of stewardship and their being gifts from God.  Instead of viewing our self as His steward, we think  we are owners who deserve even more because we are hard working good people.

Much of the church in America seems to be in this position as well.  They build larger churches to hold more people who are not fully committed to Christ. They build places of "worship" to worship man himself  in a new way.  Being   faithful to God does not necessarily mean new and fancy facilities with large numbers of people flocking to it. We may have to choose between pursuing the current "American Dream" or remaining faithful to God and reaching, teaching and disciplining believers.

Christians are familiar with Christ's parable about the laborers in the vineyard in Matthew 20. His point was not that the more we do for Him the more wealth we were be given. Every laborer received the same pay. What those who had started earlier received that those coming to work later in the master's vineyard did not get was that they had the opportunity to spent more time bringing in the harvest.  It was the master's field, and his harvest. They were stewards but wanted more material wealth to own.

Many in the church want to be recognized for their dedication and work. Jobs are filled quicker for those positions where the person comes before the congregation or gets their name in the bulletin or newsletter. I am reminded of an elderly lady who spent hours washing the communion cups in a large church after each communion service. (This was before the days of disposable communion cups.) Few people in that church with several thousand members knew who she was, how she served, or how long she served. She simply wanted to be a servant rather than an owner of recognition. Her earthly reward:One day after serving in church as she was walking home to her apartment, she was jumped and severely beaten by a youth gang who took the four dollars in her purse. She was permanently injured, could no longer walk, and forced to spend the remainder of her life suffering and in a long term care facility. Her heavenly reward: We cannot even imagine.

We face the temptation to be owners instead of servants. After all, we worked hard for what we have The devil would have us seek the glory for our service rather than allowing it to go to God who deserves it as of our self we could do nothing worthy of any glory at all. Christians are more content when they realize that all belongs to God and that we are stewards - not owners of what we have.