23 The land must not be permanently sold because the land is mine. You are just immigrants and foreign guests of mine.
9 I won’t accept bulls from your house
or goats from your corrals
10 because every forest animal already belongs to me,
as do the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every mountain bird;
even the insects in the fields are mine.
12 Even if I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you
because the whole world and everything in it already belong to me.
Israel in Jesus’ day (like most countries in the world today) had a few very rich people, and many who were very poor. Jesus was not against wealth, but he was against giving wealth a higher priority than God. He challenged many of the rich, notably those who were religious leaders, telling them it is impossible to serve God and wealth. Those who usually saw all their wealth as a sign of God’s favor sneered. Jesus wouldn’t back down, saying the things that impress human beings often offend God.
Lord Jesus, help me keep growing in the sense of responsibility I bring to stewarding the portions of your world that you entrust to my care. Amen.
Have you ever borrowed something of value from a friend or family member?
If you have, then you are aware that we tend to treat that item with special care, often even better than we treat our own items of similar value. I remember borrowing my older sister's diamond earrings to wear on my wedding day. I hadn’t originally planned to borrow them, but my sister came to me one day and offered them as my “something borrowed” item. They were special to her since her own husband had bought them for their anniversary the year before. When she handed me the box, she made me promise not to lose them on penalty of shaming at every family function henceforth. I may even have signed some kind of document agreeing to said shaming. For the most part I think it was in jest. Mostly. I felt honored that she trusted me to take care of them.
In hindsight, perhaps she shouldn’t have. You can see where this is going right? In all the chaos of the wedding, at some point I decided to take them out and place them back in the box. Very responsible, right? The problem was that at some point I forgot where the box was. As I was getting ready to leave for my honeymoon I started to panic. I looked everywhere for the box. I remember thinking we would have to sell some of our wedding gifts to buy her new ones. Not an ideal way to start a marriage.
For a good 45 minutes they were lost. Fortunately, they were found. My mother had tucked the box into her purse when she saw it sitting out. Apparently, my mom knows me too well. To this day my sister doesn’t know that for 45 minutes they were “lost.” (Let’s just keep this between you and me.)
My guess is you have some similar stories. You’re probably just more responsible than me. The point is that when we borrow something, we tend to take great care of it, whether it’s a neighbor’s lawn mower, a friend’s car, or your sister’s earrings. Why is that? I think it’s because we recognize that it isn’t ours – we didn’t do anything to deserve it or earn it. It belongs to someone else.
The scripture today reminds us of the same thing. Everything we have – our homes, our cars, our food, our money – all of it belongs to God. We just get to borrow it for a time. The other day I borrowed a baking pan from one of my neighbors. When I was done with it, I made sure it was clean (really clean, not like when my kids do the dishes) before I returned it to her. I also included a thank you note and a few cookies from the batch I had made. I think the first step in creating a rhythm of generosity comes in recognizing that none of it is ours; it all belongs to God. The second step is realizing that we must take care of it and return it better than we got it.
This week my family will be discussing and praying about what our stewardship commitment will be this year along with many of you. As we sit down and look at budgets and enter into conversations may we be reminded that at the end of the day none of it is really ours.
May we learn to hold everything we have been given with open hands, ready to give back to God what is His.
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