What do you own?
Some may answer this question economically - I own my house (or co-own with my mortgage lender). I own my car (or co-own with the bank who holds my auto loan). I own my phone (or lease it from my cell service company). I own my computer (but pay fees for the software and licenses on it). I own my television (but pay a recurring fee to put cable channels on it). So, I own a lot, but only halfway.
Some may answer this question inter-personally - I have a wife, two kids, a dog, good parents, manageable in-laws. But, these people are not my personal property, so I do not have true ownership rights over them, even though there are certain laws that grant me care and custody of my children, I do not have full ownership of all their person. So, I have relationships, but I do not own people.
Some may answer this question philosophically - I own myself because I have full rights to choose as I see fit. But, there are always limits to our freedom, whether monetary, governmental, or environmental. I cannot go buy a luxury yacht because I do not have the money. I cannot claim the State of Florida as my personal property because the government prevents me. I cannot transport myself instantaneously onto Mars for a leisurely stroll because my environment restricts me. Even internally, there are limits to my knowledge of myself, and conflicting desires, so I do not fully own myself.
This line of reasoning may seem discouraging. I don't own anything, really. If I don't own anything, who does? Christians can turn to Scripture for the answer to this question, and it brings great comfort and great value to my person. Consider the following passages:
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1)
"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters." (Ps 24:1-2)
Because God made all things, he owns all things. He is Creator. He has full rights to all He has made. I do not fully own myself, because I did not make myself, or my environment, or my government, or even really my money. If I had made all of those things, I would know them fully and have full ownership, but there is One Creator, and He is God. He does not merely have relationships, but owns people. In fact, it is the great revealed truth of God, first through characters like Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then through Israel, and finally the church that God desires relationship with His property - us. However, before relationship, God has ownership. He has the full patent rights to all of his creation - which is everything from the earth to the universe (all things).
Consider how this truth impacted the Israelite society. They were owned by God doubly, for God also redeemed them (bought them) from slavery in Egypt. The refrain "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt," occurs many many times from Exodus 12 through Deuteronomy and into other Old Testament books. When God taught the Israelites about property ownership, He exercised His rights as both Creator and Redeemer. He taught that because He owned them and the land He was giving them, they lived as foreigners in His land - He let them borrow it to use, and therefore had rights to dictate how they used His land.
"The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers." (Lev 25:23)
The Lord gave the land to Israelite families in a trust, and this established the system or rights for their society. God laid the foundation for a society in which poverty would not become rampant because land could not be permanently sold, only the produce rights sold for the time remaining until the next Jubilee (50 years maximum) at which time all property rights reverted to the familial trust. What a principle. Imagine living in a country where God gave you the land, and your family knew that your rights to your land was guaranteed to be yours. You may get into debt and lose the rights to your property for up to 50 years, but the land was God's and he trusted it to your family so you would never really lose your rights to what He entrusted to you. Here is the great picture of divine ownership and human stewardship that echoes through Scripture. In the fullest sense, we own nothing because God owns everything, yet He entrusts us with the care of His creation, much as the Israelite families held their inheritance in perpetual trust from God.
This Christmas my daughter, Eliaya, is almost 2 and she is very excited about all of her presents under the tree. Unlike last year, this year she understands that those shiny packages contain things for her. Last night I was getting ready to wrap a present for my Uncle Chris, and she touched it and asked, "Eliaya's?". I said, "No, that present is for Uncle Chris. It's not for Eliaya." She pondered that and then frowned her little nose and said, "Not Eliaya's." It became her favorite phrase for the evening. She would play and then see the present for my uncle and say, "Not Eliaya's." So, I then sat her down and explained, "All of the things we have are God's. Our house, our food, and even all of these presents are really God's. He just lets us use them for a while."
I encourage you to consider God's ownership and your stewardship of all things, especially during this Christmas season. The money in your bank account is God's - maybe he gave you some excess to give you the gift of being generous towards someone who is in need this holiday. Maybe part of your bonus check is the answer to someone else's prayer to God. The car in your driveway may be the way God has appointed to give someone a ride to church for their first service in a long time. Maybe the phone he gave you can be used this Christmas to reach out to a family member with a message of hope about the God-child come to reveal the Father's Salvation. Among the gifts you give this year, seek to give gifts that are significant from God's perspective, and give generously, because you are giving gifts on God's behalf. It's all His anyway.