Pastor Tim: Everything I own

Joseph Bulmer

The immediate reaction to the announcement last Sunday that twelve prominent European football clubs, including six from the Premier League, were forming their own midweek super league, was greeted by almost unanimous condemnation.  
Words such as “self-serving”, “criminal” and “grotesque” have been bandied about in the media, as many have expressed their revulsion of the proposals.  
Wordsmith Susie Dent, proprietor of dictionary corner on Channel 4’s Countdown, seemed to accurately capture the overwhelming mood of folk when she tweeted on Monday morning that the word of the day was “ingordigiousness”, which is defined as “extreme greed; an insatiable desire for wealth at any cost”.  
Of course, whilst we point the finger of criticism towards what we perceive to be the avarice of others, we also have to acknowledge our own susceptibility to be attracted by the desire to want to have more and more, even whilst others close by are missing out.  
“Do nothing from the motive of selfish ambition”, is the apostle Paul’s New Testament instruction to Christian people. And in the gospels (specifically, Luke 12:15) the Lord Jesus warns us to “be on your guard against all kinds of greed”.    
Hundreds of years before those instructions from Christ, another man of God, Nehemiah, was trying to help people take heed of such important words of wisdom. His story is told in the Old Testament book that bears his name, where we read that, after seventy years in exile in a foreign country, many of God’s people return to their homeland, and the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt.  
As well as leading the physical restoration of the city’s ramparts, Nehemiah takes responsibility for restoring the spiritual lives of his people. For many years they have neglected God’s detailed instructions, given to them when they had first settled in the Promised Land, concerning how they should conduct their daily lives in relationship to God, and towards one another.  
But, as God’s word is read publicly in Jerusalem for the first time in a long time, so the people respond by promising to change their behaviour and return to living life in obedience to the Maker’s instructions, as their ancestors had once done.  
One part of their lives this impacted was their attitude towards wealth and possessions. God’s people agreed to return to the practice of tithing, where once a year, they each brought the first ten per cent of all that they had grown and everything they’d earned, to the temple in Jerusalem, and gave it back to God as an act of worship.  
In following this annual instruction, they were being reminded of what is an important Biblical principle – possession is not ownership. The land the Israelites were living in, and all the material prosperity they enjoyed, was God’s gift to them; he remained the originator and owner of it all.  
King David recognises this principle when, in the first verse of Psalm 24 he writes, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him”.  
As I sat and contemplated how such an idea impacts me and everything that makes up my life, one word seemed to sum it all up – stewardship. A steward manages the property that belongs to someone else.  
Thinking of my relationship with my loving heavenly Father, I’ve come to realise that all that I am and have, be it my money and material possessions, my family, my talents and abilities, all of it is on loan to me. He remains the owner, and tasks me with stewarding, for a short time, what ultimately belongs to him alone.  
Once, according to Mark chapter 12, Jesus witnesses a big crowd all bringing their gifts to the temple in Jerusalem. As he watches many wealthy benefactors giving back to God a small portion of their riches, the Lord reserves his words of commendation for the poor widow who places in the offering just two small copper coins. “They all gave out of their wealth”, Jesus observes, “but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on”.