Posted: Feb 15

Who Is The Owner?

By Jesus Reyes Discipleship & Generosity

I live in Seaside, California.  Here there is a little hamburger place that people can drive by without paying much attention to it.  It is small, simple and without much of a special appeal. It is just a simple hamburger joint.  Nevertheless, for those who know the area, this place is very special as the food is great and the owner is quite welcoming.  Once one gets in the little place, with its four or five small round outdoor garden tables in one side, then the person gets the immediate impression that this is not just a simple, random place.  Everything in this locale has been purposefully positioned to adorn and bring some meaning to the place.  Nice pictures here and there, some interesting phrases in strategic locations –some of them serious and some funny.  The place has been adorned with good taste, and the food is delicious.

However, of all that there is there, one small phrase on the wall behind the cash register caught my attention; it reads, “YHWH (???? – Yahweh) is the owner, we are just administering his wealth.”   This phrase immediately moved me to initiate a conversation with the owner, who was wearing a kippah or kipa.  I asked him, “are you Jewish?” “No, I am not,” he said, “but I belong to the Messianic Movement.”  And then he asked, “Are you familiar with it?” So, my reply was affirmative and I disclosed to him that I was an Episcopal priest.  To make the story short, our conversation was long and my food got cold.

Thus, my initial question (who is the owner?) brings me to say that most of us, Christians, strongly believe that God is the owner of all creation.  We know that we are called to be good stewards of God’s blessings and creation.  We develop programs to increase our understanding of this truth and we feel good about our giving to church and to other worthy causes.  All of this is very good.  Nevertheless, I think that most of us still think that our giving is ours, and what we share with the church and others comes from me.  I would not want to question the emotional side of this particular understanding of stewardship. 

However, I still wonder about the spiritual practice not just around the fact of giving, but around the realization that God is the owner and we are just his administrators.  I am talking stewardship as a spiritual practice, “the intentional act of constant awareness that transforms my understanding (as intelligence and belief), attitude and behavior of being the hands of God in the world.”  What a great and freeing challenge this might be!  Just go to the New Testament and read all the parts in which Jesus speaks of freedom.  You may discover that freedom is the generous act of “letting go;” we are not in control, but we are certainly “in charge.”   The spiritual practice of good stewardship keeps a good balance in this delicate and sometimes confusing tension between “being in charge” and “letting go.” 

The Rev. Jesús Reyes –born in Mexico- is the Canon to the Ordinary for Congregational Growth and Development in the Diocese of El Camino Real, California.  Before moving to California, he was a church planter in the Diocese of Virginia where he planted a thriving Latino Congregation.