Stewardship Vs. Ownership

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“Mine!” is a common battle cry around our house. When we hear it echoing through our home, we know the fragile peace that has existed between our children has been shattered…again. When my wife and I run to the front lines, we will usually find two of our children wrestling over a five-dollar piece of Chinese plastic that was molded into an animal shape and licensed by Disney. And both of the warring parties staunchly believe that they have rightful ownership over “the precious.”

This picture of conflict is certainly not original or new. In 1 Samuel, we see it in the story of the first king of Israel, Saul. By the end of chapter 15, we see the rejection of Saul by God because Saul’s view of his kingship shifted from stewardship to ownership. Saul looked at the kingdom and told God, with the same conviction held by four-year-olds everywhere: “Mine!” The lie of ownership — believing the kingdom was his and not the Lord’s — brought the story of Saul to a tragic end. In chapter 15, Samuel is sent by God to tell Saul that the Kingdom would be taken from him, and in his first sentence of rebuke, we see Samuel call out the ownership lie.

“I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord.”

Look at the cause of Saul’s kingship: the Lord sent. Saul didn’t make himself king! God sent Samuel to Saul to anoint him. Saul didn’t respond to a job posting and kill the interview. Nor did Saul win his position by his might in battle or by being “the seventh caller to Zerubabel in the morning.” The Lord Himself appointed Saul as king. The position of leadership and influence still belonged to God. The kingdom belonged to God. Saul belonged to God.

The same is true for you and me! “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Ephesians 2:10). We belong to God, and any of our good works, including leadership and influence, are His. Your leadership at home, at work, in friendships, in community, at school and at church were created by God and entrusted to you but not owned by you. The idea that it’s “your team” or “your family” simply isn’t true! It’s the ownership lie. Everything we are and everything we have is His.

Even the purposes of leadership are God’s. Look at the purpose of Saul’s kingship in Samuel’s sentence: over his people Israel. God didn’t blindly hand control over these people of “His own possession” and hope Saul would take great care of them. God had great plans for His people and was going to use Saul to accomplish them. God’s intention was for Saul to trust God’s plans, not the other way around.

In the same way, God has specific plans for your leadership as well. Look at Ephesians 2:10 again: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God has prepared good works for you to do in your position of leadership before he ever called you to lead — or were even created! He set you up into a place of influence for his purposes not your own. Even the purpose of your leadership belongs to God.

Remember that as leaders, we are simply stewards. Leadership goes wrong for us when our perspective shifts from stewardship to ownership. Don’t believe the ownership lie; we belong to God. Our influence is from God and belongs to God. The purposes for our leadership belong to God. Even if you are appointed to the highest place of leadership in the land, and like Saul are above all people, remember that “He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31).

We are not owners. We are stewards.

How do we protect that perspective? Samuel tells us that, too, in this same opening sentence “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord.”

We listen to the Lord.

Later in Samuel, we will see David experience even more success and favor in battle and among the people than Saul ever did — he’ll even become king — but while he is a subject, he remains humble and keeps himself under the king.

It would have been easy for David to let the praises of the people inflate his ego and to lift himself above King Saul in his mind, or maybe even politically. But David didn’t.

Certainly David’s fear of the Lord was the primary motivating factor, but maybe there was something else that helped keep David in his place.

Imagine being David and having success on the battlefield and riding in a victory parade through the streets as people sang songs of your victories. You would probably feel pretty powerful and exalted.

But then at the end of David’s parade sat a magnificent and beautiful palace built for the king — Saul, not David.

Then you would pass some of the fiercest and most devoted warriors standing guard to protect the king — Saul, not David.

Then you would pass royal gifts displayed in the halls of the palace to pay homage to the greatness of the king — Saul, not David.

Then you would enter the banquet hall and see people gathered enjoying a feast in the name of the king — Saul, not David.

And possibly you would enter the throne room, magnificently and ornately decorated to pull your eye to a throne of power with a man sitting on it — Saul, not David.

I think that the more time David spent with King Saul, the more sure he was of where he actually stood and whom he actually served.

The same thing is true for us. Maybe you experience unbelievable favor and success in your areas of leadership. Maybe people praise you for the success you have enjoyed. Maybe you have many leather-bound books and your apartment smells of rich mahogany (the ultimate sign of success).

But when you stop and sit down in prayer with the word of God and are before the majesty that is King Jesus, reveling in his sovereign power, mercy, faithfulness, wisdom, and love, you know that your kingdom, my kingdom and all kingdoms are about Jesus and not you.

Then the thought of you owning anything won’t be fathomable. The thought that you are a trusted steward in His kingdom will fill you with an overwhelming gratitude that will bring you to a sincere place of worship.


This article was written by Winter Garden Pastor Grant Nixon and appeared in the Summer 2018 edition of Grace Magazine.