Reading: Psalm 24
The earth is the Lord’s and all the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Private property is one of the most fundamental rights of our republic. The right to own land and other objects, to have a claim that no one else can violate. It’s part of our ethos of hard work and of earning what you get. Moreover, no one has a right to take what you have; it’s part of your security.
And yet, the biblical teaching is that this principle of private property is not true. No, it doesn’t mean that the government owns your things or that your neighbor has a right to your car. Instead, the Bible teaches us that “the earth is the Lord’s and all the fullness thereof.” In other words, everything you have in fact belongs to God.
When Jesus taught the parable of the wicked servant, he pictures a master entrusting his servants with money to invest. Of course, the amounts are different and the amounts returned are different. For the good servants who earn something, he says, “Enter into your master’s joy.”
This parable is a picture of what our lives are really like. In the first place, life is a gift, something we receive freely and something we by definition could not have earned. But more than that, we are born into God’s world (“he has founded it”), meaning that everything that we have is not really ownership, but stewardship—something we oversee in behalf of another. And that means that, while we enjoy the many benefits of our hard work (rightly, I might add), ultimately they will be turned over again to the master.
This teaching is amplified in Christ.“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Even what you do with your body is subject to God.
The way of ownership encourages pride and selfishness. But the way of stewardship encourages humility and freedom to use what we have for the glory of Him to whom it truly belongs.
Father, we’re often tempted to try and get you out of the picture. We want to think of all that we have as ours, as what we earned, and as something over which we have absolute rights. But Lord, this is not the truth. The truth is all that we have began with a gift from you. And in Jesus, our very lives are purchased by your blood. We owe all to you. Have mercy and teach us to live after this teaching, to live in the light of what you’ve done for us in Jesus—gratefully, humbly.