(Stewardship vs Ownership) Why Ownership Is a Lie

Jun 27, 2024

I don’t own my house. I don’t own my car. I don’t own my guitar or my bed or the clothes in my closet. I don’t even own this body that I’m living in. I don’t own anything, and neither do you. 

The other day I came across a LinkedIn article written by Daryl Watson, a mission president for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He brings up a very illuminating observation at the beginning of his article. He says, “Oftentimes, I reflect on the fact we were born into this life with nothing, during our journey through life we exercise our greatest gift of free agency, (the right to choose), and with the exception of our memories and experiences we depart this mortal life with nothing.”

We were all born with nothing, and we will leave with nothing. All material possessions, all physical skills, everything we’ve ever seen, touched, smelled, tasted, and heard, we don’t own any of it. We simply get to take a turn. The only thing we actually have is our agency: our ability to choose how we apply the things within our influence. 

We are merely stewards, and it is a marvelous gift.

To fully understand why stewardship is such a wonderful gift, we have to understand the toxic nature of ownership. The illusion of ownership is a divider. It divides us from them and me from you because it warps our perspective of worth. 

Nothing in this world can add to your worth as a human being because that worth is fixed and unchanging. Ownership distorts this by placing value on the accrual of things. It acts as though you are worth more if you own more and perpetuates the destructive belief that people with more deserve more influence and more opportunities. Ownership splits us into competing individuals when our true purpose is to belong together in this human family. 

Ownership breeds envy, jealousy, competition, contempt, pride, and vengeance. Stewardship transcends those trivial cares, by pointing us back to our purpose: to have joy.

We don’t own anything, we simply get to take a turn with our belongings (our houses, cars, money, jobs, talents, families…etc.). During our turn, we are responsible for caring for them and applying them wisely. When we care for them well and apply them well, that is when we find joy because that is when we find belonging, meaning, and fulfillment. Do you see the gift yet? Stewardship releases us from ownership’s isolation and tethers us to a greater identity.

David York, the author of The Gift of Lift, describes a steward as “someone who is fully invested in something bigger than themselves.” Stewardship connects us to something greater and in turn, deeply connects us to each other. 

We are born with nothing, except for our agency. And as we live and learn and accrue possessions we’ll still have nothing but our agency. As stewards, we don’t own anything but we do have influence over things and we get to choose how we apply that influence. We can turn from the reality of our stewardship and try to gain wealth and control for ourselves, or we can take the joyful route and apply our influence for good. This latter option looks like being generous and forgiving, sharing your skills and talents, offering support to people in need, learning from hardship instead of becoming bitter, and surrendering judgment in favor of love.

When we are fully invested in something bigger than ourselves, we let go of the things that divide us and we let go of material worries. And as we give of ourselves, we receive purpose, love, connection, and belonging. 

Stewardship is the guiding light to peace. To follow it, we just have to look beyond ourselves. 


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