I read a story of a woman who had finished her shopping and returned to her car to find four men inside it. She dropped her shopping bags, drew a handgun from her purse, and with a forceful voice said, "I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car!" Those men did not wait for a second invitation. They got out and ran like crazy!
The woman, understandably shaken, quickly loaded her shopping bags and got into the car. She just wanted to get out of there as fast as she could. But no matter how she tried, she could not get her key into the ignition.
Then it hit her: This isn't my car! She looked, and indeed her car was parked four or five spaces away. She got out, looked around to see if the men were near, loaded the bags into her own car, and drove to the police station to turn herself in.
The desk sergeant, after hearing her story, nearly fell out of his chair laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four men were reporting a carjacking by a woman with glasses and curly white hair, less than five feet tall, and carrying a large handgun. No charges were filed (Greg Laurie, A Time to Worship, Decision, Nov. 2001.)
She thought it was her car, but it really belonged to someone else. The truth is: God owns everything. He owns that lady's car and the one she mistakenly got into. And He owns everything we call "ours." He owns it all.
Look at what David says ...
(Read Psalms 24:1-2.)
Haggai narrows his focus somewhat when he talks about God's possession of wealth:
"The silver and gold belong to Me" - the declaration of the Lord of Hosts. Haggai 2:8 (HCSB)
In the New Testament, Paul notes that God not only owns the world and its wealth, but He owns us as well.
Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own. (1 Cor 6:19, HCSB)
When you go to a hotel, you might give your bags to a steward who takes them to your room, but they are not his bags. You entrust your bags and their safekeeping to him for a short period of time. The foundational principle of stewardship is that God is the owner of all.
So what does that say about our relationship to the owner and the stuff entrusted to us?
I. He is the owner, I am the manager
Everything I have today comes from God. It is His; I own nothing. David said that "the world and everything in it" belongs to God (Psalm 89:11). I am not the owner of the things in my life; as a steward, I am merely the manager.
If I believe that I am the owner, then I am constantly going to be in conflict with God over what I do with the things that I have. But when I understand that the Lord is the owner, and I am only the manager, the conflict disappears, and freedom overtakes my life.
Let's take a test right here to make sure we all understand. If you made $400 last week, and you have come to church on Sunday, how much of that $400 belongs to God? All of it: $400. Someone might say, "Let me see, 10 percent of $400 - that's $40!" No, the principle of tithing does not mean $40 is God's, and the rest is yours. It all belongs to God.
Look at this question in 1 Corinthians 4:7, "For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn't receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn't received it?" (HCSB)
The implied answer for the first two questions is, "Nothing." The answer to the third is, "I shouldn't."
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 cautions,"You may say to yourself, ‘My power and my own ability have gained this wealth for me,' but remember that the Lord your God gives you the power to gain wealth, in order to confirm His covenant He swore to your fathers, as it is today." (HCSB)
II. As a manager I have a divine responsibility
If God is the owner, then I am the manager whom He has trusted with His property. I must learn to think, therefore, like His manager. A manager oversees the owner's assets for the owner's benefit. A manager carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he or she manages. The job of a manager is to find out what the owner wants done with His assets and then to carry out His will. This understanding affects how we give.
A. Give abundantly
King David, then the most powerful man on earth, understood this owner-manager relationship. After receiving a tremendous offering, David responded to God...
"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand." 1 Chron 29:14 (HCSB)
David was thinking like a steward, a manager, not an owner.
Illustration: Jerry Caven had a successful restaurant chain, two banks, a ranch, a farm, and real estate ventures. At 59, Jerry was searching for a nice lakeside retirement home. But the Lord, His Owner, had other plans.
"God led us to put our money and time overseas," Jerry said. "It's been exciting. Before, we gave token amounts. Now we put substantial money into missions. We often go to India." When asked what changed the Cavens' attitudes toward giving, the answer came quickly: "Once we understood that we were giving away God's money to do God's work, we discovered a peace and joy we never had back when we thought it was our money!" (Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle: Discovering the Secret of Joyful Giving).
B. Give sacrificially
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul tells of Macedonian Christians and their sacrificial giving. Paul testifies here of the Macedonian believers...
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God granted to the churches of Macedonia: during a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity. I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves especially to the Lord, then to us by God's will. 2 Cor 8:1-5 (HCSB)
How could they give so generously while in extreme poverty? They didn't see poverty as an exemption from giving. They simply refused to miss out on the satisfaction of giving sacrificially.
C. Give joyfully
Have you ever wondered why the Bible says that "God loves a cheerful giver?" (2 Corinthians9:7). Joyful giving is a sign that the givers understand the owner-manager relationship. Cheerful giving can only come from a heart set on things above, not on earthly things (see Colossians 3:1). God loves a cheerful giver because such givers are investing in heaven, which reaps eternal dividends.
When the tabernacle was being built in the Old Testament, people got so caught up in the joy of their heavenly investments that they had to be 'restrained' from giving more.
Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work for the sanctuary came one by one from the work they were doing and said to Moses, "The people are bringing more than is needed for the construction of the work the Lord commanded to be done." After Moses gave an order, they sent a proclamation throughout the camp: "Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." So the people stopped. The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough. Exodus 36:4-7 (HCSB)
Moses basically had to get up and cry out, 'Enough already!'
We give because everything is God's to begin with. The Scriptures teach us, both by mandate and model, that we are to give abundantly, joyfully, and sacrificially.
III. The manager will give an accounting
I am held accountable to God because He, as the Owner, has expectations of the manager. The Owner has complete right to a full disclosure of what's been done with His property. Our managing His property will undergo a job performance evaluation.
(Read Romans 14:10-12.)
Each will give a personal account to God. God will want to know what we have done with the possessions He has entrusted into our care. Here are a few areas of inspection.
The Owner will check how devoted we have been to Him. That's why Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, "Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship." (HCSB) Paul says a proper and spiritual act of worship is to give yourself fully to your Owner to be used as His servant.
B. Our possessions
He will also hold me accountable for what I've done with the things He has entrusted to me. One of the final parables Jesus gave concerned a master who entrusted his possessions to three servants while he was away. The master, after returning, held each servant responsible for how he had used or invested what had been entrusted to him (Matt. 25:14-30).
C. Our time
Look at Ephesians 5:15-17: "Pay careful attention, then, to how youwalk - not as unwise people but as wise - making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don't be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is." (HCSB)
We will be held accountable for how we used each "day the Lord has made" and given to us (see also Ps. 118:24 and 74:16).
D. Our abilities
The owner will examine what we have done with the gifts and abilities He has granted us, (Read 1 Pet. 4:10). God, my Owner, expects me to take the spiritual gifts and abilities He has handed me and use them for His glory.
God has entrusted to my management time, possessions, abilities, and even my very being. All are to be used for His honor. I will be accountable for all these things and how I used them. God has high expectations that I will serve Him and grow to think and care and love like He does.
If the examination were tonight, if the Owner called you to give an accounting this evening, what would the record say about your giving? Would it reflect a humble belief that you are only managing what He owns? Would joy and cheer mark your life as one who gives generously because you know your investment is gaining heavenly treasure for you? Some of us need to rethink how we're spending our resources forChrist and His kingdom.
The white-haired lady was mistaken as she went to the wrong car, wielded a gun, and sent the passengers scurrying. But hers was an honest mistake. It wasn't her car. And she wasn't held accountable for her actions. But we will be held accountable. All that we call "ours" is actually His. My prayer is that we will - that we do - properly manage what He has entrusted to us.