Several decades ago when I was asked what I owned, I had to stop and think. I began recounting my stuff: lawn mower, chain saw, pickup truck, hand tools.… But I didn’t get very far when the missionary interrupted me and said, “You apparently didn’t understand the question.”
He asked again, slowly: “What do you own?” He said he would let me think on it for a while and walked away.
I never had the opportunity to discuss it with him again, but I pondered that question for weeks before I forgot it. However, many years later that question re-surfaced in my mind and I came up with some interesting conclusions.
The verb to own means: to possess; hold as personal property; keep control over; maintain mastery. That’s an interesting concept, and I totally revised my philosophy of ownership.
So, what do you consider to be your property? Make a mental list, and I’ll help by naming several items: clothing, car, surfboard, animals, land, business. What else came to your mind? But do you really own these things? Read the definition again.
Can you truthfully maintain mastery over something if someone can take it from you? No. If you really OWN something, no one can take it from you. Pause and think about that for a minute. Stop paying taxes on your paid-off property and find out who thinks they own it.
Now, let’s consider permanent ownership.
In Leviticus 25:23 God said, “The land really belongs to me, so you can’t sell it for all time. You are only foreigners and travelers living for a while on my land.” Remember: God created it, so the land is His.
Friends, in reality, not even the government owns anything because God maintains mastery over it all. But He requires us to be good stewards (manager, guardian, administrator) of His property.
In Psalms 50:10-11 God said, “Every animal of the forest is already mine. The cattle on a thousand hills are mine. I know every bird on the mountains, and every living thing in the fields is mine.”
Titus 1:7-9 says, “As God’s managers, overseers must not be guilty of doing wrong, being selfish, or becoming angry quickly. They must not drink too much wine, like to fight, or try to get rich by cheating others. Overseers must be ready to welcome guests, love what is good, be wise, live right, and be holy and self-controlled. They must hold on to the trustworthy word just as we teach it, because overseers can help people by applying correct teaching ….”
So God gives us abilities, talents, skills, and property; but we erroneously focus on them and too often think we own them. Friends, we don’t even own our abilities. God loans them to us, but we can lose them in a moment by accident or sickness.
How about money? In Matthew 20:8-15, God said, “I can do what I want with my money.” Even money is not ours: ever hear of a stock-market crash?
How about wisdom? In Luke 21:15, God said, “I will give you the wisdom to say things that none of your enemies will be able to stand against or prove wrong.” God owns wisdom, and God owns you. So, is there anything in the world that we can claim as our own? Yes: we are supposed to own (possess, control) our emotions. The Biblical term is temperance.
The point I am trying to make is this: you own nothing except your thoughts, your will and your emotions. God did not create robots or automatons; He created and owns people. And He expects us to use our thoughts, will, and emotions to bless and honor Him.
Let’s add another item: we own our responses to what happens in life. That means we are capable of controlling ourselves. No one can make you angry or make you happy. It’s your choice. YOU decide how you will respond.
Corrie ten Boom told a pastor some years ago: “Pastor, let go of all the things you think you own while you can. Otherwise, God will pry them out of your dying hands.”
There is nothing wrong with having things as long as we understand that we are only stewards of the things that we bought – with the money God helped us to earn. So, use things for their intended purpose and get the job done.
What do you own? You own your thoughts, will, emotions, and personal responses. And that sets the stage for owning a clear conscience with joy, peace, and contentment.
So, once again: What do you own?