Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 29, 1961
NUMBER 9, PAGE 6,14b

The Stewardship Of Life (III.)

Jesse M. Kelley, Tulsa, Okla.

In articles one and two of this series we called attention to the fact that God is possessor of the Christian by virtue of two great facts: (I) Creation, and (2) The Christian has voluntarily surrendered his life into the service of God. He therefore has been "bought with a price" by his own consent and desire. In this transaction a transformation has taken place, and the steward, by the proper acknowledgment of God as the owner of all that inheres in or belongs to the life, becomes a possessor upon the terms laid down by the owner. This makes all his possessions the trust that constitutes his life's work. The absolute owner of all that he has is God and the steward possesses what he has by virtue of ownership that is termed "legal" in the world of human relations. We therefore deem it expedient to look a little more fully into the term legal ownership and what it means with reference to the possessor.

A possessor is one who possesses or enjoys the use of anything, such as land, money, etc. He is the holder of a thing as opposed to the owner. According to the dictionary, possession is defined as the act or state of possessing; the having, holding or using of property in one's power or command. This definition is clearly seen in the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25 and already alluded to once in this series. These three men held in trust something of value, to be used for the purposes of the owner. Legally they owned the talents. They had the power to control — a right to deal with the property at pleasure. As already pointed out, personality came in contact with property. The result was possession, responsibility, and liability. Property, therefore, is simply the result of relating of things to people.

In applying the lesson of Matthew 25 to the Christian one great fact stands out: The Christian possesses without owning. He has the use, administration, or distribution of that which belongs to God. Legally it is his. In the absolute sense it is God's, and because it is God's the steward is responsible to God for its use. We can therefore see the difference between possession and ownership. But to bring the application into focus more clearly let us illustrate. A bank is in possession of funds. These funds do not belong to the bank but are the property of the depositors. The bank has exclusive use of the funds; it is the possessor of the property of others. It is therefore responsible to the depositors for the use and administration of these funds. Just so, the steward possesses without owning, and is responsible to the owner of what he possesses for the use and administration of what he "owns."

But the steward is not the only responsible party in this transaction. God has distinct and well-defined responsibility to everyone in possession of his goods. He has made ample provision to meet all his responsibilities in connection with everything he owns. No matter what may have been the original status of the individual soul in the sight of God, when the steward became the purchased property of the heavenly Father, he gave himself and his to him. Mutual relations were established — relations of great importance, and each side to the agreement has assumed its share of obligations and responsibilities. The terms of the agreement were of God's making, and the acceptance of those terms by the individual obligated him to make constant acknowledgment to God of all that is implied by the trust committed to him as steward. The steward voluntarily accepted God as the owner of all that he possesses, which calls for a definite use of all that he has in certain well-defined ways, made plain to him by the heavenly Father. The responsibility of the steward, therefore, consists wholly in doing what God wants done in the way he wants it done with his property.

Let us illustrate for more clarity. On a certain street there is a sign on the front lawn of some property that the house is for rent. A prospective renter comes by and decides he wants to rent the property. He goes to the owner and expresses this desire, and the landlord sets forth the terms upon which possession of the property can be obtained. It is not difficult to see that the owner has sole right to lay down such terms, and that if the prospective tenant occupies the property he must meet such terms. God has sole right to lay down terms of tenancy in his kingdom by virtue of absolute ownership. If we occupy his "property" it will be by his terms alone.

Let us carry the illustration a little further. Suppose the above mentioned tenant offered to leave the sign that recognized the owner of the property on the front lawn so that all who passed by would know who the owner actually was, and in addition, he would "recognize" the owner with a gift of apples from the trees ini the back yard. Upon laying down these terms and promises to the owner he assumes that he can move in at once. The owner refuses and demands instead, an acknowledgment costly enought to make the tenancy valuable. He asked for a payment, not a gift. The value of his house was in an adequate rental — a receiving from the possessor.

There are multitudes in the church who endeavor to occupy God's "property" with an occasional "gift of apples" and possibly a sign on the door of the church house where they attend when it is convenient that God is "the owner of this life." But such is a mockery to God. Laodicea still wore the name of Christ but God received nothing. Stewardship consists of more than this. We have pointed out that God requires more than a mere recognition of his ownership — he wants an acknowledgment of the life and all that inheres in it as belonging to him which can come only through service and sacrifice in his vineyard.

It might be well to point out that God does not count values as men count them. With men, values are determined by what one holds in his possession. God determines values by the use made of them, and by what is paid out Laodicea had much. She said, "I am rich....," but God said she was poor and wretched and blind and naked. A few months ago a story came out of New York City relating that a man had been found dead in a shack down in the Bowery district. Investigation revealed that he had died of malnutrition. No one claimed his body and he was buried at the expense of the city. Later the shack was torn down and several hundred thousand dollars in securities and a considerable amount of cash was found under the floors and in the walls. As men count values he was rich, but a poorer man never lived. This reminds us of the words of Jesus when he said, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Lk. 12:15) A man may be worth millions and be a pauper in the eyes of God. The widow with two mites was worth much. The value was not determined by the amount she gave, but by how much of what she had that was willingly placed at the disposal of God. So values are found in what one uses, not in what he holds. God's investment in us will never accomplish his purpose except by use.