“Can I go to Grammy’s house and vacuum her stairs?” One of my boys asked me.
“Well you could vacuum our stairs…” I reply, taking note of all the crushed leaves and sock lint littering the flight.
“No…I just want to vacuum her stairs…can you text her to see if I can come over?”
I sigh and shake my head…what is it about taking care of other people’s things that is so much more motivating than taking care of our own?
My boys know that if they go do chores for Grammy they will likely get some sort of treat or reward. Doing their assigned chores at home is just expected. Doing chores for Grammy will make them feel good because they are helping her. Doing chores at home, which does help them whether they admit it or not, doesn’t come with the same amount of satisfaction.
Don’t I do the same thing, though?
- If I am washing dishes at a friend’s house after a meal, I will be more careful, thorough, and motivated than after a meal at my house.
- If I borrow a dress from a friend, I will be sure to take better care of it than if I owned the dress.
- If I am watching my friend’s kids on the playground, I will hover a bit more to avoid them skinning their knees on my watch.
- If I’m driving someone else’s car, I’ll go a little more slowly and maybe choose a more isolated parking spot.
Taking care of someone else’s things feels different than taking care of our own. Stewardship inherently requires a different approach than ownership. With our own things we may be a little more relaxed or skip over some details. But we naturally pay much more attention to caring for the things that belong to someone we love or respect.
I’ve been thinking a lot about stewardship and ownership lately as I’ve been learning about what it means to be Poor in Spirit (Matthew 5:3). To be Poor in Spirit requires being utterly dependent on God and therefore acknowledging that all we have is His. The tangible things we have, as well as the intangible things, must not belong to us if we are to be Poor. Instead, they belong to God and we are stewards of what He allows us to use.
This is such a humbling concept! I really appreciate what it means to surrender everything I am and have in order to be dependent on God and not myself. To surrender is freeing, although sometimes it is difficult to accomplish. I often think I’ve surrendered something, but then anxiety builds up and I realize maybe I’m still holding on.
But it really sank in to me today that stewardship inherently requires a different approach than ownership. So, if I have said that I’ve given something to God—it’s His to own and mine to manage—why am I not taking better care of it? Have I adopted the diligent attitude of a steward, or do I have the more casual attitude of owner?
- If my body belongs to the Lord, am I being careful with what I put in? Or am I being flippant about my health?
- If my home belongs to the Lord, am I using it in a way that honors Him as Owner? Or is it a haven for ungodly spirits and attitudes?
- If my finances belong to the Lord, am I filled with peace for the future? Or am I spending and saving money in a way that reveals my anxiety?
- If my talents belong to the Lord, am I using them in a way that serves Him? Or am I focused only on my own interests that serve me?
- If my hope and peace belong to the Lord, am I sharing them with others as He would have me do? Or am I hiding this light that I’ve been given?
- If my strength and energy belong to the Lord, am I looking for opportunities that maximize their glory of their Owner? Or am I squandering them in activities that bear no fruit?
It’s a convicting reminder that my approach and attitude towards something reveals my true heart towards it. If I am acting like the owner, then I am not acting like the good steward I’ve been called to be. And that means I probably need to work on surrendering my ownership.
An owner is allowed to be sloppy with their things, because they own them. A steward is expected to do their best to care for what they’ve been put in charge of. Think of something in your life you have felt convicted to surrender. Now think of how you are managing it—are you adopting the attitude of Owner or Steward? If the True Owner were to visit, would He be pleased with your efforts or would He fire you from the job?
Next time I vacuum the stairs, I’m going to ask myself who they really belong to and let that help determine my attitude and effort. 😊
Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”