It is often said that we are just stewards, not owners, of what we have. Is that really true? If it is true, what does that mean for me? I had heard that I am only a steward and not an owner many times but I had never checked it out or thought about the implications.
When I started as Executive Director of The Idlewild Foundation, I thought I was a generous person and I thought I understood Biblical stewardship. Then I spent some time reading several of Randy Alcorn’s books and articles among those from many other Biblical scholars. I began to realize that the Biblical foundation for stewardship was broader than just a few verses and the implications were life-changing. In fact, the foundation for Biblical stewardship and God’s generosity to us by allowing us to be His managers, or stewards, is woven through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and is as solid is the Bible itself. There are too many verses to list every single one, but here are some of the verses that establish God’s sovereignty and ownership over everything. It starts with creation itself and the very fact that God made everything and then put mankind over His creation.
Let’s take a trip through the Bible verses saying that God is the Creator and sustainer of all that we have and all that we are. It isn’t our stuff because it all belongs to Him.
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
19 and he blessed Abram, saying,
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
Creator of heaven and earth.
22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth,
So God made everything, ourselves included. That’s a nice start, but does he still own everything? In Exodus He certainly did.
29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s.
5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine,
Nothing changed through the rest of the Torah.
16 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the LORD’s.
23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.
26 “‘No one, however, may dedicate the firstborn of an animal, since the firstborn already belongs to the LORD; whether an ox or a sheep, it is the LORD’s.
30 “‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.
18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
14 To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.
Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, God remained the owner, unequivocally.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12
11 Everything in heaven and earth is Yours, O LORD. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
1 Chronicles 29:13-14 (David prayed to God)
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
3 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
24 How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty.
Nothing changed even in the New Testament. There are many parables where God is represented by the Master, owner or landowner who allows others to have or use His property. Perhaps the best known of those and the one cited most often for the stewardship we have over our master’s property is the parable of the talents.
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.
15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.
17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.
18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?
27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.
29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
God’s ownership continues even after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and was recognized by the New Testament writers.
24` “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.
25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
1 Corinthians 4:7
7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
1 Corinthians 10:26
26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
If you still are not satisfied with the message that He is the owner and we are only the stewards, or managers, try the following parable as told by Jesus. The landowner represents God and the workers or servants are people. The message of stewardship is clear; we are only managers of what God has given to us.
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.
2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.
4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’
5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.
6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius.
10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius.
11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.
12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?
14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.
15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Randy Alcorn gives us the reason for the importance of this foundation and points out the implications I addressed earlier in this article, “I believe the most dangerous misconception is the idea our money and possessions belong to us, not God. Many of our problems begin when we forget that God is the Boss of the universe. But, in fact, He is more than the boss; He is the owner.”
Why is it a dangerous misconception? Again, according to Randy Alcorn:
“As long as I hold tightly to something, I believe I own it. But when I give it away, I relinquish control, power, and prestige. When I realize that God has a claim not merely on the few dollars I might choose to throw in an offering plate, not simply on 10 percent or even 50 percent, but on 100 percent of “my” money, it’s revolutionary. If I’m God’s money manager, I’m not God. Money isn’t God. God is God. So, God, money, and I are each put in our rightful place.”
Any other thought, any other approach, leads to materialism and potentially to making your stuff your idol. Once we recognize that God is the owner, we have no choice but to respect the wishes of the Owner.
There is not any room for debate or argument; everything you have belongs to God and comes from Him. We are stewards over what He has allowed us to use and have for the time He gives us on earth. All that is left is your choice – what will you do differently because it belongs to someone else? My choice is easy given the obvious truth.
15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona.