Our value of Ownership

(post 3 of 6 in the "Rethink Your Life" series)

In our American culture, ownership is one of the ultimate goals.

I distinctly remember the day we brought home our third kid, baby Mae, in December of 2013. I still remember walking up the driveway to our two-bedroom townhome that we were renting at the time. An immense feeling of shame washed over me because I didn’t own a home that was “big enough” for my family.

I recognized that the shame I was feeling was not from the Lord and I was able to reject it, but it revealed what I really believed. The reality was that I was doing a great job providing for my family and our kids loved our home (and still wish we lived there). But I had let the Kingdom of America tell me what the good life was. I had believed the lie that owning a home was part of the good life and that I was missing out. I was also comparing myself to those around me.

This is a good example of how we can actually be unaware of what we believe. It is so easy to let our culture or the people with whom we surround ourselves shape our beliefs. I wasn’t aware of how deeply I believed that owning a home was part of the good life and that it would bring me happiness through the status of being a homeowner.

Ownership is not a bad thing and ownership is not opposed to stewardship. In fact, many times ownership is the best kind of stewardship. For example, owning a home is oftentimes better stewardship than renting one.

But since the Kingdom of God is available and Jesus is asking us to rethink our lives in light of this reality, I think we should examine this value of ownership in the Kingdom of America.

Overall, I believe that ownership is not in opposition to the Kingdom of God. God created us to reign and rule over creation. Part of being created in God’s image is that we are creators. There is something profoundly spiritual about owning a piece of property and caring for the land, creating a home or garden, or a place for play or being with people. I remember my first garden and how much joy it brought me. The process of getting the right soil, planting the seeds, watering and caring for the garden, and then harvesting the vegetables was very fulfilling. I feel the same way in taking care of my yard so that it is well maintained and welcoming to our guests.

However, there is another reality that comes with ownership, and that is the burden of ownership. Each thing that we own takes up a portion of our capacity. Each item that we own requires time, money, and energy to take care of that item. As we acquire more items, the time, money, and energy add up.

So I think the question that we need to ask is: how much of my time, money, and energy do I want to steward toward the stuff that I own? For example, if the stuff you own takes up 100% of your money and 90% of your time, is that kind of ownership consistent with the Kingdom of God? Again, ownership is not bad, but how heavy is the burden?

One simple example that I experienced personally was when I had a job transition and we started getting very serious about living on a budget. We had always been frugal, but actually taking the time to look at where our money was going was very revealing. In addition to our car and SUV, we owned an amazing 1984 Yamaha Riva 180 scooter named Roxanne and my dream car, which was a 1984 VW Westfalia Van named Larry. 1984 was a great year! Roxanne and Larry were my most prized possessions and we had incredible experiences and memories with both, camping and scooting around town. But with our budget reality and a growing young family, they both began feeling like a burden.

With Roxanne, I no longer had a job in town and I began to feel irresponsible about driving a scooter now that I was a father of two young kids. She was just sitting in our garage and without driving her, the battery would die. Then, when it came time to register her, I had to figure out if it was worth the money to pay for registration and insurance. I ended up making the wise and difficult choice to sell her. The bummer was that I ended up using the money for new tires on our Suburban. My sweet Roxanne became very practical, boring, and necessary tires. Ouch!

With Larry, it was very similar. I realized that the insurance, registration, and repairs did not fit into our budget. Also, with our expanding family, Larry didn't hold us because he only sat four. He was very hard to get rid of but I knew we didn’t need a third car.

The interesting part was how much freedom I felt after selling Roxanne and Larry. I loved them, but when I realized that we didn’t have capacity money-wise and I wasn’t using them as much because of our growing family and life circumstances, the burden of ownership was feeling heavy. By freeing up that capacity, that burden wasn’t taking up money, time, or energy that I could now steward in other directions.

We all have different capacities when it comes to money, time, and energy, so we have to be careful not to compare. A third car might be a heavy burden for me given my budget and time capacity, but that doesn’t mean it’s a heavy burden for you.

Again, my point is not that ownership is wrong or bad, because it’s not. I could give you example after example of people who have blessed me or others with something that they own. What I am saying is that we need to monitor how heavy the burden is.

Also, how does ownership fit into the good life? With that, we need to know what the "Good Life" is. This is my working definition of the good life.

The Good Life includes:

  1. Having interactive relationship with God where you are experientially known and loved and you also know and love Him.

  2. Similar to relationship with God, you are experiencing life-giving friendships where there is the same mutual known-ness and love.

  3. Learning to live more and more in the Kingdom of God and partnering with God to expand it in your own heart and soul as well as in the world.

So where does ownership fit into that definition? At this point, I don't see ownership being essential to the good life. However, I think there are amazing ways that owning things can align with Kingdom values. Some examples:

  • Owning a home could help you live out your value of hospitality.

  • Setting up your yard as a place of retreat and allowing people to host retreats there.

  • Sharing your SUV or van to transport kids from your youth group.

  • Blessing people with good food and drink in your kitchen.

  • Letting friends borrow your vacation home to give them an affordable weekend away.

  • Enjoying God's creation and his design of your body during any kind of recreation on your favorite "toy" participating in a life-giving hobby.

While ownership can align with Kingdom values, one thing I'm sure of is that ownership does not give you status or value in the Kingdom of God like it does in the Kingdom of America. And it does not equal success like it does in the Kingdom of America either. We need to monitor how heavy we allow the burden of ownership to become, but we also need to monitor how much it's adding to our value or identity.

Ultimately, I think this is one of those areas of life where the importance of intimacy with God and discernment comes in. When we have the opportunity or desire to purchase something and become an owner, we need to ask God and discern whether or not we should take on that burden, as well as consider the motivation behind it. Here are a couple questions for us to ask:

  1. How heavy of burden will owning this put on us and will it take up our capacity to love others well and fulfill the Kingdom assignments God has for us?

  2. Am I buying this to increase my value, worth, or status in the Kingdom of America or does this align with my Kingdom values and what God has called me to?

Remember my example at the beginning of this post about being surprised by the feelings of shame I experienced when we brought Mae home to our rental? Until that moment, I didn't even realize that I had taken on a value my culture had given me without evaluating it against the Kingdom of God.

Jesus asks us to re-think our lives in light of the fact that the Kingdom of God is now available. So let’s be obedient to that and become aware of the beliefs, values, and habits we have taken on regarding ownership and compare those with the Kingdom of God.

Let's Dialogue: I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this? Have you experienced the burden of ownership? If so, how? With my working definition of the Good Life, what would you add or adjust? What is your definition of the Good Life?

Some experiments:

  1. List out all the things that you own. Once you’ve done that, in the next column, rank that item(s) from 1-10 with 10 being very burdensome and 1 being very light. Then, sit with the Lord and ask him how you are doing stewarding those item(s). Are there ways you could steward them further?

  2. List out the things you long to own, the desires of your heart. Then after you have listed them out, sit with the Lord about “why” you long for them? Does this help you understand more what you believe to be the good life?

  3. Read slowly Matt. 25:14-30 a couple of times, see if the Lord has a word or phrase for you in the passage. If one pops out to you, sit with that and the Lord and ask Him what He has for you. After you have done that, answer these questions:

  4. ​​What do you learn about God from this parable?

  5. What do you learn about people?

  6. What is one action step you would like to take to test out the claims in this parable?

  7. Read slowly Luke 12:13-21 a couple of times, see if the Lord has a word or phrase for you in the passage. If one pops out to you, sit with that and the Lord and ask Him what He has for you. After you have done that, answer these questions:

  8. ​What do you learn about God from this parable?

  9. What do you learn about people?

  10. What is one action step you would like to take to test out the claims in this parable?

#Rethinkyourlife #Ownership #TheGoodLife