Attitude of Ownership

“Attitude of Ownership”, read the sermon title on the bulletin from the church I visited this morning. The intended meaning of those words was very different from how I initially interpreted them…

We talk about ownership a lot where I work. We take on the toughest problems of our clients and we own them. They become our responsibility. The become ours.

We reframe these as opportunities for improvement. We solve them. We deliver beautiful, elegant solutions. We get to solve interesting problems our client gets value. Everyone is happy.

We do this every day. So when I read “Attitude of Ownership”, I thought I had this one down. Settling in for a good daydream like a schoolboy, I was suddenly re-engaged when an unexpected reading from James 1 struck me as somewhat out of place:

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

The main point being communicated was that everything that is good comes from God. In the fashion of Luther, “What does this mean”? It means we need to stop being so full of ourselves when we try to own things. It is hubris to think we’ve earned anything we own. Our ownership is more like debt. This begs the question, do we really own anything?

Regardless of the semantics, it is clear that everything is a gift. Yes, even the solutions our team comes up with on a daily basis don’t actually originate from us. Did we create our brains? No, they are gifts from our parents, environments, experiences, and ultimately above.

So, let’s think about gifts so we can better understand ownership:

1. Gifts are better when enjoyed with the giver. - For example, if you are given a bottle of wine would you enjoy it more drinking by yourself, or sharing it with the one who gave it to you?

2. Gifts are better when used with purpose. - This applies to both the giving and receiving. Giving can be to express gratitude or appreciation. Giving can also be used to express belief or confidence in someone’s potential. Consider a father who gives his child a guitar. He is disappointed if it is never played, but beams with pride if he gets to attend a concert.

3. Gifts are better when they promote humility. - Gifts given/recieved in bad taste can destroy relationships. No one likes receiving gifts from someone who is trying to flaunt their wealth or buy affection. Similarly, someone who doesn’t express appropriate appreciation for a gift will offend the giver and be less likely to receive similar expressions in the future. Consider the spoiled child who throws a tantrum when they don’t get the exact toy they wanted on Christmas morning.

So, since everything we own is a gift, when we exercise our ownership over things we should:

1. Enjoy what we have with God – God is our giver and life is the gift. Life will be better enjoyed with Him. Do all things with him and for him.
2. Use what we have with purpose – They have been given in Love and are signs of His confidence in us. Keep the guitar safe, tune it, and practice it so that you can play your best at the concert.
3. Do it humbly – Remember your gifts are gifts, and you had nothing to do in acquiring them, so don’t get puffed up. Don’t be the pompous brat who discards the gift because it wasn’t what they wanted or you’ll soon be left without any gifts.

So the next time you say you’ll own something, treat it like a gift. Own it humbly, own it with purpose, and own it with God.