For the last decade or so my wife and I have spent Thanksgiving in South Carolina with our youngest daughter. This year was no different. We had a good time but our travel back and forth was a mixed bag–things went well going south, but not so well going north. Thanksgiving traffic can be brutal.
Still, we make the best we can of our situation and trying down there God gave me a little reminder of just who is in charge of the world. We were driving through the western part of Virginia with mountains and hills all around us. I happened to glance over to my right and saw a good size herd of black Angus cattle on a hillside field. And the Lord reminded me then of the words of the psalmist in Psalm 50 who, writing in the words of God, said, “The beast of the field are mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”
One of the great problems we have in this world is the sinful idea that somehow we are in charge of things. I’m sure the farmer who owns that herd has thought of them as “his” cattle. But, in point of fact, they aren’t. In reality those are God’s cattle. Just as my home is God’s place and my car is God’s car and my retirement money is God’s money. None of it belongs to me, but it all belongs to Him and I am simply the steward of those things. Not only does God own everything–He also owns everyone. We are His people, not independent beings.
Some years ago I spoke about this in a sermon and a parishioner said to me afterwards, “how can a man live if he doesn’t own anything?” That’s a powerful question and one that deserves an answer.
God’s ownership of everything and everyone is actually Gospel–Good News for us. You see if I indeed own things like my home, my car, my kids, my own life–well, I’m going to be all the more upset when they’re gone. Corrie ten Boom once said that she had learned to hold lightly the things of this world so that it wouldn’t hurt so much when God took them away from her. Ownership of things is not freedom, it is indenture. If I am tied to my things, then I am imprisoned by them. If I hold hard to my life and how I live it, I am always afraid of what will happen if it all falls apart. If I grasp at stuff–stuff owns me.
But when I acknowledge God’s ownership of all things, including myself, then I am freed to live the life that God has planned for me. I am ready to step out and experience the great adventure that is the Christian life, unencumbered by anything except faith in Him and His promise that all things will work together for good for those who are called according to His (not my) purpose.
Those cattle on that hill in Virginia reminded me of all that. And I thank God for bringing it into my mind.