Sometimes, when there’s an opportunity to help an organization (or a person) financially, my wife and I have an awkward sort of “standoff”. Each of us has a particular amount in mind to give, but we sort of walk around the issue, with that little bit of fear that the other person has a much higher or much lower amount in mind, and we’ll look silly. Eventually, one of us actually throws out a number, and we can talk about it. Typically, we find an amicable solution (even if I’m way off from what she was thinking).
Now, we’ve been married quite a while, and money isn’t usually a major stumbling block. We agree to not spend money on major things without consulting the other, and work together to combine the bills and account-balancing (her skill) with larger-scale investments (my role). Still, topics about giving away or spending money give us some pause, as we seek to figure out what the other is thinking. (I generally figure that if she feels called to give to the same thing as me, that’s a pretty good confirmation from God that we’re on the right track.)
In fact, maybe this should be our attitude about spending anything, whether we have a joint bank account with another person, or not. After all, what we think of as “ownership” is really a social convention. There may be laws (and good ones, that allow for society to operate in a structured manner) that give us temporary rights to money, property, or material goods. However, those laws can vary among cultures: from cases where the government controls nearly everything, to those that consider possessions to be community property. And, no matter how much we may think that we “own” something, about the best we can hope for is to influence how it is used during our lifetime, and suggest how it should be re-allocated upon our passing.
Ultimately, while money, goods, or land might temporarily flow through our hands, giving us some sense of control, it can really only be “owned” by one who transcends mere human lifespans. God, who created everything, really has the right to say what should be done with His creation, as David proclaimed (recorded in the following verses).
So David blessed the LORD in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, “Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.
1 Chronicles 29:10-13 NASB
One term for a person who manages another’s belongings is “steward”. We might think of a caretaker, a trustee, or a mutual fund administrator doing this same sort of thing. This person is responsible for taking good care of wealth that is actually owned by someone else.
Jesus shared examples of this concept, talking about others who were stewards of material goods in Luke 19:11-27, and in Matthew 25:14-30. The Apostle Peter writes about us using our God-given gifts, as well:
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1 Peter 4:10 NASB
For those who agree that it is God’s sovereign right to decide how His possessions should be best used, our role becomes more clear. My wife and I need to agree on how to spend our money, but neither of us is the sole owner of our belongings (despite things like cars being registered in the name of one or the other of us). However, when there is a clear owner, the person entrusted with management of someone else’s possessions has an even greater obligation to remain in harmony with the owner’s wishes. An fund manager who loses her clients’ money in bad investments is going to lose reputation and customers. A property manager who doesn’t take good care of a house or property will almost certainly get fired.
In the same way, we have an obligation to manage God’s property in the way that He wants. Whether we study the Bible to understand how He wants us to use what He has entrusted us with [in general], or listen to the Holy Spirit to learn [more specifically] what He has planned for each of us (or, better yet, both!), we have the opportunity to be faithful stewards of God’s blessings. And, like someone paid to manage the wealth of another, when we act in harmony with God’s direction, we receive benefits, as well.
Use His blessings wisely, and enjoy being the steward for the richest One in the Universe!