Personal property looms large in our lives. From admonitions by teachers and parents to respect the property of others, to signs such as “Keep off the grass” and “Trespassers will be prosecuted”, and razor wire coiled round the top of high fences as a security measure, we learn a lesson of ownership that is entirely misleading. It is augmented by phrases such as “me-time” and “personal income”. Actually, nothing belongs to us at all. As the first epistle to Timothy (6:7) says, “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it”. Furthermore, during the time we are in the world nothing belongs to us, either: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
We are not the owners but the stewards of our time, our money, our homes, our land, and our possessions. All of it belongs to God and so do we ourselves: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
In our Bible passages we are commanded to be aware of the trust placed in
us, and to prove faithful in our management of so great a responsibility, always remembering that we are not the owners but only the estate managers, and must learn and apply the principles of our Master in the disposition of what passes through our hands.
The two paragraphs from Luke 16 come at the tail end of Jesus’ story of the
unjust steward – you might like to look it up and read the whole story. In our two paragraphs, two quite separate points are being made: the first belongs to the story and encourages us to remember that goodwill is as important a benefit to have on account as hard cash. The second is related in that it is on the subject of stewardship, and is Jesus’ teaching (see also Matthew 25:23) that, as we prove trustworthy in little things, both God and our fellow human beings will see that they can depend on us and trust us with greater things.
Wise and faithful God, we marvel that you have made us the stewards of the works of your hands! We look at the trust you have placed in us, in the relationships and good things with which you have blessed us, and the wonderful natural ecosystem of which we are a part, and it is amazing to consider that you have made us the stewards of all this. Unless you help us, we are not equal to the task, so we ask that day by day you will guide and direct us in your ways of wisdom, reconciliation, and peace, so that the works of our hands tend always towards integrity, wholeness, and well-being. For we ask in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.