Oscar Wilde, Irish playwright and author of yesteryear, wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray, “Young people, nowadays, imagine that money is everything . . . and when they grow older they know it!”1 Another statement on money I especially like is from former heavyweight boxing champ, Joe Louis: “I don’t like money, actually, but it quiets my nerves.”2 But my all-time favorite is from Sophie Tucker when she spoke of the needs of a woman: “From birth to eighteen a girl needs good parents; from eighteen to thirty-five she needs good looks; from thirty-five to fifty-five she needs a good personality, and from fifty-five on, she needs cash!”3
As important as money may be, we are all aware that there are some things it can’t buy. Consider these examples:
Money can buy medicine, but not health.
Money can buy a house, but not a home.
Money can buy companionship, but not friends.
Money can buy entertainment, but not happiness.
Money can buy food, but not an appetite.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.
Money can buy a crucifix, but not a Savior.
Money can buy the good life, but not eternal life.4
When it comes to money and material possessions, too many of us, if we are completely honest, are owned by the things that we own. Like slaves serving an unrelenting master, we spend our lifetimes making money so we can buy stuff that grows old or breaks down and needs repair. And then we have to make more money to replace or repair all that stuff. But let me give you four simple, single-syllable words that will give you freedom—real financial freedom. These words aren’t original with me, and quite frankly, they don’t sound all that profound, but I’ve never come across four words in all my studies that can better free us from financial bondage. Here they are: God owns it all.
Look closely at these verses.
- Exodus 19:5: “All the earth is Mine.”
- Deuteronomy 10:14: “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”
- Job 41:11: “Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”
- Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the LORD's , and everything in it, / the world, and all who live in it.” (NIV)
- 1 Corinthians 6:19: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
- 1 Corinthians 7:23: “You were bought with a price.”
- 1 Timothy 6:7: “We have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.”
Without our God, we would be bankrupt corpses. All that we have is His. We are born into this world with our hands empty, and we leave this world not only with empty hands but wearing clothing without pockets. When you stop to think about it, our souls have no pockets either. We take nothing with us. God owns it all.
John Wesley put it this way, “When the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward.”5
Stewardship is managing God’s treasures in God’s way, for God’s purposes, and always for God’s glory. We begin life with our hands wide open and nothing in them. As we mature, by the grace of God, He allows certain things to be placed into our possession, none of them under our ownership. Remember, He owns everything in heaven and earth. It’s all His.
So, in pleasing Him, we live our lives with open hands. We accept what He entrusts to us only as stewards, never as owners. We dare not think of gripping the things He entrusts to us. We hold everything loosely. We simply maintain the treasures He entrusts to us, investing them wisely but never forgetting that anytime He wants to remove those things from us, it is His sovereign right. That time may be in the middle of our lives when we feel the most prosperous. It may be early in our lives when we think we have earned the right to make a lot and to spend a lot. It may be later in life when the nest egg is broken and we have little to look forward to except an empty nest.
We’re back to where we started: God owns it all. You will never be in financial trouble if you remember those four words. They will revolutionize your thinking on finances. I wish “God owns it all” could appear on every checkbook, every pocketbook, every income tax return, every stock transaction, every credit card, every home mortgage, every car title, every real estate contract, and every business deal. I wish all the stuff in our homes—including our houses—were stamped with that reminder in bold letters.
Richard Foster in a fine book on living a disciplined life wrote,
When Jesus uses the Aramaic term mammon to refer to wealth, he is giving it a personal and spiritual character. When he declares, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24), he is personifying mammon as a rival god. . . . Mammon is a power that seeks to dominate us.6
I love the way Foster expresses that—money is a “rival god” that “seeks to dominate us.” Just like sex or fame. Stop and think a moment. Do you really live your life openhanded? Or do you find yourself struggling with greed—gripping things, money, investments, influence?
The poet Martha Snell Nicholson put it better than I can.
One by one He took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Until I was empty-handed;
Every glittering toy was lost.
And I walked earth’s highways, grieving,
In my rags and poverty.
Till I heard His voice inviting,
“Lift those empty hands to Me!”
So I held my hands toward Heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches
Till they could contain no more.
And at last I comprehended
With my stupid mind and dull,
That God COULD not pour His riches
Into hands already full!7
Trust Him. Let it go. You’ve been given one main task: to be a good steward of what He has entrusted to you. Nothing less. Nothing more. God owns it all.