Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ownership vs. Stewardship

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Do you own your house or condo? Have you ever thought about what that means to own your property? Does it mean that it is yours until the end of time or does it mean that it is yours until your end of time and then somebody else will own it? I expect it means the latter but have you thought about that before? While you update the bathrooms or the kitchen, paint the garage door or plant spring bulbs, are you in the "I'm saving this for someone else mode" or the "I'm just fixing these things so that I can enjoy the home while I'm in it mode?" Does it matter to you whether another person will be buying your property or does that thought never cross your mind because you own your property and are staying in it as long as you want?!

Well, get a grip - the house is NOT yours even if you've a paid mortgage in hand. Whether you like it or not, the home in which you live is probably going to outlast you and no matter how much you declare that you own it - you don't. You just have it for the time being. Your children may inherit it or not but sooner or later, it's going to belong to someone else.

With that vision of ownership in your mind - what do you really own? Anything? Something? Your pearls or your watch or your new leather shoes? It's unlikely you own those things either. At some point in time, you'll tire of the possessions, perhaps, once more, bequeath them to your children or friends. Your precious things may not be precious to others - the pearls may not be genuine, the watch may rust and the new leather shoes may end up on someone's feet in another country - whoops, there's that we'll be dead and gone thought again.

Well, if it's just for the time being then why do I mention the word stewardship? Don't you like or maybe even love your home and/or at least some of your possessions enough to care for them while they are in your hands? Wouldn't it be a little part of you that would endure in this world if your worldly possessions were to survive into ages to come?

Oh, you could see this coming I'm sure.......what about this world, this planet, this water, this air - aren't they ours for the moment and don't we want to share them with our future inheritors - share them in as at least as good an order as we can possibly manage? I cannot understand those of our time who can only think of their own wealth, their own possessions, their own time as though what they leave behind will be of no consequence anyway. But it will be of consequence won't it? Our stewardship is ever so much more important than our ownership, isn't it?

I expect that most of MindSieve's readers are good stewards of their lives, their property, their planet and if you're reading today and you're not a good steward......well, I ask you to consider why you are not and ways that you could become better at stewardship. In essence, I believe that ALL we have is given into our hands by a Creator greater than we can even imagine. For me, it is part of my life to leave this earthly home I treasure a better than a worse place into which I arrived decades ago. How about you - do you need ideas for better stewardship or maybe you just need to think about how to steward a little better? O.k. think about it and thanks as always for reading!

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  1. What a wonderful post and a marvelous way to enter a conversation about stewardship. We are all caretakers though too many of us have no understanding of what it means to caretake, to take unto ourselves as our own what is not ours and give it our care, treat it with love for what it represents.

    There is a beautiful piece in Love Poems From God (by Daniel Ladinsky), "Consecrated", that says it this way:

    "All has been consecrated./ The creatures in the forest know this,/ the earth does, the seas do, the clouds know/as does the heart full of/love. . . ."

  2. Anonymous7:14 AM

    I lived for a time in a VERY small village in the South of France. The house I rented was built in 1270 and bore the marks of the previous inhabitants (worn places in the tile where they stood by windows or in the "kitchen" by the fireplace). One of the more difficult things to get used to was the lack of storage spaces, even for food (the living areas were on what we would call the second floor over the place for the animals, which was their food storage area, oh and the "cave" which would have been used to store "cellar" items) Neither of these places had been adapted for food storage in the ensuing centuries, the result was that aside from a few staples food gathering (shopping) was an almost daily affair. This was no easy task as the "Market" came to town twice a week, yes we had a baker, a roaster, and a small grocer that carried basics and some food stuffs that varied daily, but nothing that we in the U.S. would recognize as a market. One of my neighbors who could trace her family living in the building she occupied back to the 1350's was a great help in my adjusting to these situations. When I asked how she managed with such limited storage for food and "necessities" of modern life, she replied with something I keep with me to this day.
    "Anything you are not using, or will not soon use, you are steeling from those who could use those things. How can there be pleasure in a full table when your neighbors table is blank? No amount of cloths will warm you if you see a child shake with the cold, illusion is the magic of the devil, that we own anything is illusion." Sounds much better in the French of the area.
    Thanks for a great post


  3. This is such a timely post for me. Just a few minutes ago, I was thinking (yet again) about something I used to own but let go of in my most recent radical move.

    I have a complicated history with "stuff." I've been a renter all my adult life. I've been very unattached to stuff through most of my life, but with this has come not very good stewardship.

    My relationship to stuff is slowly changing, and my plan is to begin an intensive focus on this relationship with the new year. I want to be a better steward, but there is much for me to unlearn/relearn.

  4. bruno hit the nail on the head "that we own anything is illusion." am i a good steward? maybe. i'm trying. and when doing home remodels i often think of who will come after - just as i ponder who came before.

    once in my little house in tulsa, i put wall paper in the bedroom knowing full well that the next owner (or possibly the one after that) would remove the paper for something of their own preference. i took my large paint brush and left them a "hello" and dated that particular edition of the house. i hope they smiled when they found it, but they may have just thought it silly.

    oh, i could go on and on about how i am preparing for future generations in my own small way. this post was much more thought-provoking than i first realized! that's why i love flannery o'connor's quote: "I write to discover what I know!"


  5. Hey SS,

    When I think deeply about it, I think that "owning" my home has always meant that I had both responsibility and freedom. I had freedom to make changes, choose paint and carpets, etc. But, I also have a responsibility to my home. We are very, very blessed to live in a home that we feel nurtures us deeply. I have a hard time imagining living any where else. It is a definite possibility that this will be where I die. And because I love this house so much, I care for it. I don't treat it badly or let it run down because I own it. I want to take better care of it. Not for the next owner or even for my kids, but simply because it is the right thing to do. The same goes for the earth. If I love her, I will take care of her.


  6. Oh my goodness, I am so thrilled to receive these wonderful remarks about your own stewardship and the lives of others that you've known. It's such an essential part of being a "created human" it's silly that it is so often just related to a plea from the pulpit for money. Pastors, priests, speakers - have tried forever to convince congregations, audiences and individuals to view their "giving back" as a pittance for the lives and reality that they've been given. It is about the money part too in giving back but it's so much larger than just the money!! AGain, thank you for your wonderful comments.