Stewardship vs. Ownership

Written by Megan Brown 

Marketing Director  | Fortify Foundation 

We often hear the word steward-ship tossed around within our churches, our workplaces, and our communities. Whether it is stewardship of the environment or stewardship of our money and belongings, we hear this word used across both secular and religious platforms. But what really is stewardship? And more specifically, what is a steward? And how does one steward well? Whether we realize it or not, as believers, our lives should truly be centered on stewardship! When we are able to find a deep understanding of the role God has appointed to us as stewards, our lives truly change for the better. 

To get started, we must first answer the biggest question: what is a steward? A steward is simply defined as someone who manages or looks after someone else’s property. We see stewardship references in several places of the Bible including 1 Peter 4:10 (we are stewards of God’s grace), Genesis 1:28 (we have stewardship over the earth, the animals, etc.), Titus 1: 7 (we are managers of God’s household), and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 (we are stewards of the mysteries of God). It is clearly seen through Scripture that God has given us a unique calling as stewards, but how do we do it? In order to be a good steward, we need to understand what it is that we are stewarding, and who is the rightful owner of it. Without knowing the owner, we will never know how to truly steward what we have been entrusted with well. 

To put it into perspective, think of an item you have been gifted from a family member who has passed on. Maybe it’s a ring, a piece of furniture, or a financial gift. Whatever you may have, you most likely treat it with great care, or hopefully invested or spent it wisely, because you honor and respect the person who gifted it to you. Because you knew the owner who entrusted the gift to you, you look at the gift differently than maybe something you bought yourself. 

If we believe God is the Owner of everything, like Scripture says, then everything that we possess really does belong to Him. Our house, our car, our finances, our relationships, our families, everything. True biblical stewardship encompasses every aspect of our spiritual and physical lives. Now if stewardship isn’t a familiar concept to you, you may be thinking, “Aren’t I the owner of my property and belongings?” Well, think again. Scripture points over and over to God as the Owner of all things. We see this in Psalm 24:1, Job 41:11, Psalm 50:10-12, and 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, to list a few places. 

We often find it easier to view God as in control of the big things around us, such as the weather, sickness, etc. But to view God as the owner of our possessions, the things we work hard for, that can be a very different story. But, if we believe God is the Owner of everything, like Scripture says, then everything that we possess really does belong to Him. True biblical stewardship encompasses every aspect of our spiritual and physical lives. It encompasses how we use our spiritual gifts, how we treat our families, those in need, our workplaces, our churches, and even our finances. And if God is the Owner of everything, then He is the determiner of how much we are entrusted with. Randy Alcorn writes in his book, Managing God’s Money, “Stewardship, properly serving as God’s asset managers, requires constantly living in light of God’s ownership.” Take a moment to ask yourself this: Are you truly living in light of God’s ownership?

The primary goal of a steward is to be found faithful by his or her master. When we fully know and understand who our Master is, and the why behind our service to Him, then we will wisely and with glad hearts make use of the resources God has entrusted us with to the best of our abilities. As mentioned above, stewardship is not a minor part of the Christian life, it is the Christian life.

God is the owner of not only our money and possessions but our time and abilities as well. Most of our problems in life begin when we assume ownership of the things we have and forget that they belong to God. When we hold tightly to our money and possessions, we become greedy, and controlling, and lose focus of what really matters. Anxiety starts to creep in as we become consumed with “climbing the ladder,” meeting our financial goals, having the next “big thing,” the perfect house, the nice car, etc. When we truly believe that God is the owner of all, including our money, then we will see God as who He is, the Sovereign God. We will also see ourselves in our rightful place as God’s stewards or “money managers,” and we will see money in its rightful place as God’s, not ours. 

When we see God in His rightful place and ourselves in ours, we can let go of that ever-nagging need to be in control. We are all consumed by it, whether we want to admit it or not! But with God in His rightful place in our lives, we no longer have to try and control things. There is no more unhealthy striving to meet worldly standards. Success is no longer measured by the world, but by God. We can turn to God in all of our circumstances, instead of relying on ourselves. 

God’s ownership offers a life-changing perspective when things do go wrong. When our house burns down, our car is totaled, our business is robbed, it’s not our possessions and our money we are losing, but it is God’s. And if God, in His sovereignty, entrusted it to us, then in His sovereignty He will take it away if needed, with purpose. 

John Wesley was once approached by an anxious man yelling, “Your house has burnt to the ground!” But Wesley didn’t react the way most would expect. His response was, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.” This story is a beautiful and challenging reminder of what it looks like to live with a stewardship mindset. Wesley had a deep-rooted understanding of God’s ownership and his role as God’s steward. When things went wrong, he was able to find peace in the sovereignty of God. He didn’t mourn his lost possessions because he never truly saw them as his own. He instead saw them as God’s possessions, entrusted to him for whatever period of time God would allow.  

The heart behind stewardship is this: God loves us, equips us, and calls us to live a life that honors Him. He entrusts us with His possessions and His money. In response, we ask ourselves, “How can we use what God has given us to glorify Him and further His kingdom?”