Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 8, 1961
NUMBER 6, PAGE 8,13b

The Stewardship Of Life --- No. 2

Jesse M. Kelley, Tulsa, Oklahoma

In our initial article on the present study we pointed out that a "steward" is one to whom the property or affairs of another have been entrusted, and that "stewardship" consisted of the management and/or disbursement of such property or affairs. Also that the practice of stewardship involves the life in its total unity — that is, all that inheres in or belongs to the life of the individual is involved in the practice of stewardship. Different parts of one's life cannot be held as separate entities. Life is a unit and must be counted in the sum total of its powers and inherences. This necessitates a coordinated relationship between the various phases of one's life. Every phase or manifestation of life must sustain proper relations to every other phase of manifestation.

But while it is true that life is a unit, it must be remembered that there are two great phases or manifestations of the life; personality and possessions. Personality is made up of several elements, such as time, energy, talent, etc. Personality inheres IN the life, possessions belong TO or are ATTACHED TO the life. The steward is responsible to God for both of these phases or manifestations. A great deal of difficulty and trouble have resulted because men have tried to differentiate between these two manifestations of life. Men who would not permit themselves to do a dishonest deed, often have no scruples as to how their money is used by someone else to consummate fraud. But if life is a unit, and it is, then the use of one's money for wrongful purposes lays sin at his door just as surely as if he had "pulled the trigger" himself. Life being a unit, one cannot separate his possessions from his personality; he is responsible to God for both, and the fraudulent use he permits to be made of his property is as much an outrage against God as an immoral act of his person.

The unity of life is further seen, in that time, an element of personality, can be changed into talent, another element of personality through many hours of hard study, and talent can be converted into possessions by being turned into channels of gainful pursuits. Life therefore, is to be treated as a unit in the practice of stewardship. All have been entrusted to the management and disbursement of the steward by God. We can see then the necessity of a coordinated relationship between the various phases of one's life in the service of God. All of the elements, both of personality and possession, are to be counted in the sum total of their powers and inherences. It is by the combined use of these elements that one renders an adequate stewardship. Too, proper balances must be maintained between these various elements, and rightful relations must be sustained as the life makes use of all that belongs to it in the practice of stewardship.

In contemplation of God's ownership of the life, his will must be supreme. The term "owner" conveys the idea of supremacy as regards the use of things owned. God's will is supreme as to the use that is made of both the personality and the possessions of the steward. Keep in mind that God's ownership is not that which is termed "legal" own- ership. As we have pointed out, this kind of ownership is subject to restrictions; prohibitions may be imposed that would limit the use of property to which there is a legal title. But this is not true of God's ownership; restrictions may not be placed upon it, it is absolute. Such ownership is emphasized over and over again upon the pages of the sacred text. "Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it," .... "every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills .... all that moves in the field is mine." (Dent. 10:14; Psa. 50:10-12) To the steward Paul said, "You are not your own; you were bought with a price." (I Cor. 6:20; 7:23) These passages could be multiplied, but they all point out God's absolute ownership both of the spiritual and the physical. Such ownership is recognized in his power to create. All matter and life, both in the physical and spiritual had its origin in creation by the hands of God. Man never created anything; he simply takes the created things of God and utilizes them to his use and needs. Herein rests the proof of God's absolute ownership of all that we have or expect to have.

Another fact emphasizing such ownership is seen in God's power to control. He "upholds all things Eby the word of his power." Since the beginning of time his creations have continued in their ordained course without the slightest deviation. He controls the sun, moon, and stars with all the intricate movements of myriads of planets and heavenly bodies. In contrast to this, man cannot control his puny possessions with any surety. He may go to bed in full control of his faculties and awaken a helpless and hopeless paralytic. Today he may possess lands and houses and money, tomorrow all may have been destroyed or taken by powers greater than himself. It is only by the grace of God that a man holds and uses what he does not have power to control. The power of absolute control rests only with God.

Still another proof of God's ownership is to be found in the fact that in Jesus Christ the steward has voluntarily recognized his Lord and Master. This recognition was not forced upon him, but was the result of a voluntary sun-under into the service of God by obedience to the gospel. With the consummation of this obedience he became the purchased property of God. "Ye are bought with a price" said the apostle, and again, "Ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." Now one's will is not his own; all that he has, both personality and property, are vested in God both by law and by love. Motivated by love, the steward became the purchased property of heaven, consequently divine law binds him to not only the rule, but the practice of stewardship. The Son of God is the Savior of the soul, but he is also Lord and Master with the right to bind and command. The former relation involves the latter; either both are true, or the soul has not yet found the true salvation.

As a final proof of God's ownership, please note that personality and property, while assets in God's hands are liabilities to man. In the parable of the Talents recorded in Matthew 25, the 'Master left his assets (goods) iu the hands of his servants for management and disbursement. What were assets to one became liabilities to others. In this is revealed WHEN one becomes responsible to God: these assets or possessions became property when personality came into contact with them. Property therefore, is simply the result of relating things to people, and only as personality applies itself to the stewardship of possessions, can stewardship serve the higher purposes of God the owner. These servants were not responsible to their master for the disposition of these talents until their personality came in contact with them. A steward is not responsible to God for goods he does not possess, but when by reason of legal title his personality comes into contact with property the result is responsibility, and God will hold him accountable for the use that is made of it.

It goes without saying that a recognition of God's ownership of the life is a prerequisite to stewardship. But what multitudes do not realize is that it takes more than a mere recognition of this ownership to render an adequate stewardship. There must be an acknowledgment of such ownership. Let us illustrate: There is a sign on the boat dock that a certain man will rent a boat for a stipulated amount. When a prospective user reads the sign he recognizes that John Doe is the legal owner of the boat. But John Doe wants more than this mere recognition of legal ownership; he wants all acknowledgment by the prospective user of so many dollars paid in advance for the use of the boat. The owner was pleased when he could take down the sign that recognized his legal ownership and receive an acknowledgment in the form of money from the user of the boat. This illustrates what is meant when we state that an acknowledgment of the ownership of God is essential, and that it involves meeting the will of God the owner upon the express terms which meet his will. It will be recalled that "many of the chief priests" recognized that Jesus was the Son of God, but they did not acknowledge it by their confession of him.

Since both personality and property are involved in the practice of stewardship, a Christian fails to acknowledge God as the owner of himself or his property when he withholds from him either of these. Please remember that life is not a group of separate entities unrelated from each other, but a unit. Time, talent, personality, and possessions all inhere in the life, and all are involved in the acknowledgment of God as the absolute owner. To attempt to give God the personality without the possessions, or the possessions without the personality is an abuse of the whole idea of stewardship, and of course can only be rejected by God. He will have both or nothing at all. The wise man said, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:6)