Has the American dream become the American idol? In the early days of the Church, people were selling all their property to meet the needs of its members. Is that the model today’s disciples of Jesus should follow? Unlike the many countries where governments prohibit, control or limit private ownership of property and commerce, America encourages ownership; however, you may wonder if ownership is a good thing, considering our increasing awareness of the vast poverty and injustice across the world. Is ownership the real problem? Consider some of its challenges:
1. It can feed greed and self-indulgence.
2. It can advance pride and elitism.
3. It can increase the gap between the “haves” and the “have nots.”
My personal experience of owning houses, property and businesses reveals how easily I can turn God’s blessings into burdens, obsessions, even idols (anything that overshadows God). Still, if asked if the principles of ownership itself is evil, I would answer with a definitive, “NO.” Ownership has the potential to be abused, but this does not make it morally wrong. In fact, the biblical case for ownership is compelling.
Exodus 20. The overly-familiar and under-applied Ten Commandments instruct us not to steal, or to crave after our neighbor’s house or any other possession . . . the assumption is that personal ownership is a part of life.
Hebrews 13:6. God could have created a world with no ownership, but instead, in His perfect design, He uses possessions to reflect His giving and just character. He commands those owning material things to be generous. “Do not neglect to do good, and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Luke 18:18-25. Ownership is an avenue for glorifying God and accomplishing His purposes. Joseph of Arimathea owned a tomb and offered it to accommodate Jesus body.
Acts 16 and Philippians 2. Lydia offered her home and her wealth establish the first church in Philippi. A decade later that church sent Epaphroditus with gifts to support Paul during his imprisonment.
There are unlimited possibilities to use our possessions to reflect God’s faithfulness and provision, but we should be on guard for the potential traps that personal ownership sets in motion. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what was necessary to receive eternal life, He told him to go and sell all his possessions. Don’t mistake that Jesus was introducing a new requirement for salvation or a universal principle of equal distribution of wealth. “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him,” then he exposed the primary heart issue that was hindering the young man from trusting and following Him—he couldn’t imagine a lifetime without his possessions (Mark 10:17-30).
Ultimately, we must ask ourselves a pointed question: “Are my material possessions channels that accomplish God’s purposes, or are they obstructions to accomplishing God’s purposes for my life?” In other words, do you own your possessions, or do your possessions own you?
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
Lord, you have blessed me in so many ways. You have given me more than I deserve, especially from a global perspective. Thank you for instilling within me the aspiration to be the best steward that I can become, of all that you have given me the ability to acquire. I pray that You will use every possession to make yourself known and worshipped. Protect me from shifting my dependence to assets, bank accounts, property or business interests rather than to You.
“Ownership of possessions is a fundamental way that we imitate God’s sovereignty over the universe by our exercising ‘sovereignty’ over a tiny portion of the universe, the things we own.” Wayne Grudem, Business for the Glory of God