The concept that everything we have belongs to God and that each of us are simply His stewards in regard to our possessions is quite popular.  It is true that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).  It is also true, as the Psalmist David expressed it, "The earth is the LORD'S (ASV = Jehovah's), and the fulness thereof, the world, and they that dwell therein" (Psalms 24:1).  However, this does not preclude the concept of ownership as we normally understand it.

Our concept of ownership is demonstrated in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).  This couple had a piece of land and sold it (5:1, 3).  Peter points out that they had "owned" this piece of real estate (5:4).  After selling it price was in their "power" to do with it what they would.  Their sin was lying (5:3-4, and 7).  They had claimed to have given all the proceeds of the sale to the church, by laying it at the apostles' feet (5:2-3), but had kept part of it.  This passage not only destroys the popular concept of "Christian stewardship," but also that the early church practiced communism.  

The concept of stewardship is commonly used in both the Old and New Testaments.  As the dictionary suggests, it is simply "a person employed to manage a large house or estate."  A steward does not "own."  He manages what he is hired to do.  Jesus used the concept in the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) as well as in the Parable of the Unrighteous Steward (Luke 16).  The bottom line, as Paul points out, "it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1Corinthians 4:2).

The serious student of the Bible will soon realize that stewardship is used relatively few times in the New Testament.  (1) In 1 Peter 4:10 we read, "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."  The "gift" here refers to the ability to do miracles received by the laying on of an Apostle's hands (Acts 8:18).  (2) Paul in giving the qualifications of elders or bishops in a congregation pointed out that as shepherds of the flock they "must be blameless, as the steward of God (Titus 1:7)."  (3) With reference to those that preach the Gospel (Romans 1:16ff), that they were "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1Corinthians 4:1-2).

A final question.  If we as Christians own nothing as stewards of God and everything we possess belongs to Him, how then can we as faithful stewards leave any of our "estate" (stewardship) to unfaithful or even unbelieving children or relatives?

Dale I. Royal, Elk City OK