Stewards Don’t Have Rights

You deserve this.

That’s the popular marketing message you see coming at you from cars, furniture companies, and custom bath tub installers right now. Their emphasis seems to have shifted from highlighting the various attributes of the product they’re hocking and more to an emotional appeal, which makes perfect sense when you think about it. Good marketers know that you’ve got to do more than educate a consumer about their product; they’ve got to touch your heart. That’s exactly what they’re doing with this message, so that’s what you get:

You deserve this.

Marketers seem to have touched something that’s innate inside most of us, even if we don’t like to admit it. It’s the same thing that gets riled up with things don’t go the way we should. It’s that sense of indignation when something as simple as a traffic jam impedes our progress or throws off our schedule. It’s that surprise when we get passed over for the promotion or denied for the huge mortgage we applied for.

We, at a deep heart level, live with a sense of entitlement. Perhaps some of it is because we are Americans (at least most of us are who are reading this blog right now). We have heard about these God-given rights that we are entitled to from the day we are born. While it’s true that all of us are created in the image of God and therefore all of us warrant a certain amount of dignity and respect, there’s also a dark side to our entitlement. It’s that dark side that the marketing messages appeal to, and that dark side that is so easily offended when things don’t go our way. Our entitlement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of our rightful place in the universe.

To potentially oversimplify the issue, let me say it like this: Owners have rights. Think about it in terms of a car. You purchase an automobile outright. You pay cash, like any good student of Dave Ramsey should do, and you drive away in that vehicle free and clear. You immediately pull into McDonald’s and buy 4 cheeseburgers, an order of fries, and a chocolate shake. Then you eat it all in that car, and before you get to your destination, you’ve got ketchup, cheese stains, and spilled ice cream all over the seats.

No biggie – that’s your car.

It’s a different story, though, if you picked up that vehicle from Hertz instead of the dealership. In the first case, you own the car; in the second, you’re only borrowing it. In the first scenario, you have the right to eat cheese fries in your vehicle. In fact, you have the right to be offended if a second party eats cheese fries in that vehicle but you have a cheese fries ban in place. In the second, you don’t get to make the rules.

Here’s the rub about the universe: We don’t really own anything. Our money, our health, our homes, our talents, even the next breath – we don’t own any of it.

“The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord;for He laid its foundation on the seas and established it on the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2).

“The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:24-25).

God is the owner. And owners have rights.

We are the stewards. The users. The borrowers. And stewards don’t have rights; stewards only have responsibilities.

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