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God and money -- Ownership vs. Stewardship
Whose stuff is it, anyway?
In the Old Testament book of Psalms, Psalm 24 opens with this verse
"The earth is the Lord's and the fullness therof. The world and they that dwell therein"
What this says is that everything belongs to God. EVERYTHING! All the plants, all the animals, all the mountains and valleys, all the beaches, the jungles and rainforests, the deserts and oceans, all of it belongs to the Creator. Not only that, all the people belong to Him, too. And all the stuff the people have belongs to him. This is a very different view than most people have. The average person living in this world thinks, "My stuff is mine." This is the idea of ownership. But the Bible puts forth a different concept, that of stewardship.
Stewardship, as the Bible defines it, means that we are only managers of whatever comes under our sphere of influence. Our money is really God's money, and we are just allowed to manage it for a time. The same is true for "our" land, "our" children, "our" posessions, "our" pets and anything else we tend to think of as "ours". We are here for a limited time and while we are here, certain things and people pass our way. We are allowed to have a certain amount of wealth. We are allowed to acquire a certain amount of posessions. We are allowed to come in contact with certain people. God expects us to manage these people and things to the best of our ability. We are supposed to love the people, treating them with dignity and respect and kindness. We are supposed to take care of the things and use them responsibly and well. When we have excess money or posessions, we are supposed to share with those who have inadequate supply.
I sometimes hear people speak of eliminating poverty. Poverty will never be eliminated. In the Old Testament, God said, "the poor shall never cease out of the land." In the New Testament, Jesus said, "the poor will always be with you." Part of the reason that poor people will always be among us is to teach us to use our resources to help one another. Some people live in voluntary poverty, for various reasons. The Christian who chooses a life of poverty trusts God to provide the essentials for life. God uses people, touching their hearts to give these people what they need. In the eyes of God, this is the true use of money and things--to help others. All too often, however, people become fixated on the accumulation of stuff, even stuff they neither need nor really want.
There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, or having nice things. There were a number of wealthy people in the Bible. But in every case in which wealthy people are highlighted in a good way, they are also found to be generous people, who give freely to the poor. On the other hand, Jesus tells the story of a man He calls a rich fool, whose only goal is to build bigger and bigger storage facilities to hold all his money and stuff. This man dies at the height of his wealth, and the Lord says, "who gets all that stuff now?"
Putting things in proper perspective
Going with the flow
The current economic slowdown shows us how easily money can come and go. When the economy is booming, everyone acts as if it will continue this way forever. But it does not, and people are caught up short when shifts and changes occur. When the economy is struggling, there are always naysayers predicting that it will never get any better. But it does. You have to be flexible enough to let money come when it comes and let it go when it goes. It doesn't really belong to you--you are just a manager.
Going with the flow is enjoying what you have when you have it, sharing with those who don't have and learning to manage resources wisely along the way. Going with the flow is enjoying the people and experiences you find yourself in as well. You can be so preoccupied with the pursuit of money and all that it buys that life passes without your knowing it. You wake up one day and you are old and you have a family full of strangers and no real friends. This is poor management. Wise management is saving some of what you have for the times when you need it. Wise management is forming good relationships with God and with other people. This is the source of true happiness.
Everything belongs to God but He wants you to be a good steward or manager over whatever he allows you to oversee. If you want to be a good manager, He will guide you, He will teach you and He will make it happen.