Why do we always take better care of something when it belongs to someone else? If we borrow someone’s pen, we are more careful not to lose it. If we are wearing something that belongs to someone else we will go to extraordinary measures to make sure it doesn’t get dirty. If it is ours, we will carelessly toss it in the closet, but if it belongs to someone else, then we carefully hang it up and smooth it out. If, by some bad luck, we have to drive someone else’s car, then we become poster children for safe driving. Both hands are on the wheel, we ignore the ringing cell phone and of course, we are right on the speed limit, maybe just a little under. If something is not ours, we treat it much better than anything that belongs to us.
The basic truth of stewardship is that NOTHING belongs to us. EVERYTHING belongs to God. We are entrusted to care for God’s creation, every facet of it, but we never own it. That’s what being a steward means. You manage it, but you never own it.
When we talk about stewardship, we usually talk in terms of money and time. These, we think, are our most important and tangible resources, and therefore, they receive most of our attention. But when you think about it, relationships—not time or money—are our most important resources. People, not stuff, make up the best part of our lives.
And yet, relationships are the most neglected aspects of our understanding and teaching of stewardship. The people in our lives, just like time and money, are entrusted to us by the Master. These people—our friends, children, parents, spouses and colleagues—are people who are just like us. They are created in the image of God. They are each called to a loving relationship to God through Christ Jesus. And like us, each of them is on a journey.
We are part of that journey. Our relationship with them, as good stewards, is designed to enhance the valley of each life. Each person who encounters us should be more fully themselves in the grace of Christ. We are called to bring a kingdom return for each relationship. They should be more like Christ because of their relationship to us. They should be more of themselves as Christ intended them to be. Our love for them should be one of the ways God frees them from the slavery of false expectations and the consequences of bad decisions. People should love to be around us because they become better people. You have friends like that don’t you—people who build you up, encourage you and call out your best selves? That’s the way we are supposed to be with everyone who has a relationship with us. We are called to be stewards of our relationships. We are called to give and to return them to God better than when He gave them to us.
Remember my first question, “Why do we always treat stuff better when it belongs to someone else?” Would you treat your friends differently if you understood they belong to someone else? Would you love your family differently if you understood they belonged to someone else?
They do. Each one of them belongs to the Father. They are His. And we are stewards of these relationships.