On Aug. 11, I received a surprise email. It was from Amazon saying, “Thank you for treating someone to an Amazon.com Gift Card. Now we’re treating you to a $10 promotional code good for eligible products sold by Amazon.com.” Sweet! It’s fun to receive a surprise gift like that.

Talking about surprise gifts, our family just received one, too. Well, it wasn’t exactly a surprise since we heard it was coming – but we doubted if it would actually happen. A few months ago, my brother-in-law said he was going to build a swing set in our backyard for our 16-month-old daughter. Since he and his family live about three hours away, it was a nice thought, but we wondered if he would really follow through. It would be a lot of planning, a lot of money and require a long trip to get here. Well, he did it. He recently came to our house with a van full of swing-set parts and spent the better part of three days building it in our backyard. It’s very cool! Our daughter really enjoys it. Not only did he design it, order the parts, drive it all over here and assemble it, but he did it all for free. What an incredible gift!

Have you ever received an incredible surprise gift? I’m sure you have. Of course, we’ll say that God has given us many gifts, too, and we are grateful for all that God has provided. But when it comes to what God gives, calling them “gifts” may not be the right word.

That’s because when we think of something being a gift, we include the transfer of ownership of the item. Amazon sent me a gift of $10. That $10 is now mine. Likewise, the new swing set is ours. It no longer belongs to my brother-in-law. That’s how we think of gifts. It’s something the giver gives, the receiver receives, and the giver also transfers ownership to the receiver.

When it comes to thinking about what God gives us, we must remember there is no transfer of ownership. Everything in life still belongs to God. As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” To say that everything belongs to God is not something most people argue about. Yet, it is something we often forget or ignore.

One way to help remember that everything belongs to God is to remember that we are stewards of what God has given to us.

Originally, a steward was someone who took care of the master’s affairs, such as money, the house or field. Today, we still have examples of stewards. A banker, for example, takes care of someone’s money. A grounds crew takes care of someon’s yard. A babysitter takes care of someone’s kids. And when we entrust these people to take care of things that are precious to us, we expect them to remember that these things do not belong to them.

Sometimes, though, we think the things God has given to us are now ours. We think there’s a transfer of ownership. How often have we thought, “This is my money. I worked hard for it. I earned it. I can do whatever I want with it.” Well, no. Since the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, that includes money. Thinking of ourselves as stewards of that money reshapes the decisions we make about it.

Sometimes, though, we are good stewards too. God has entrusted us with so many precious and wonderful things, and we often use them well, treat them with respect, and do what God wants with them – including money. There are plenty of times that God is pleased with us as stewards. There are plenty of times that God is pleased with you as a steward.

So, everything we have is on loan to us from God. As the old line says, “We brought nothing into this world and we will take nothing out of it.” God also respects us, trusts us and sees us as stewards. Or, to make it more personal, God respects and trusts you and sees you as a steward.  That’s amazing!

As for the $10 I received from Amazon, it belongs to God. As for the swing set in our backyard, that belongs to God too. How I use that credit and how we use that swing set are important things to think about. For example, I’m not going to throw away that credit or destroy the swing set. They were given to be enjoyed. They were given to be shared. They were given to be tools to show God’s goodness in the world. Just like all of the wonderful things you have received in your life.

Thanks be to God for trusting us, respecting us and letting us be stewards of all that belongs to God!


Kurt Lammi
Kurt Lammi is the pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Dog Leg Road in Dayton, Ohio, and is a frequent contributor to Living Lutheran. His writing has also appeared in Sundays and Seasons, Christ in Our Home and the Journal of Lutheran Ethics. He lives in Vandalia, Ohio, with his wife, daughter, cat and fish.

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