Institute in Basic Life Principles

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What is the principle of ownership?

The Principle of Ownership
keys to understanding irritations and resolving anger and worry

The Biblical principle of ownership involves recognizing that all things ultimately belong to God, that He entrusts us with resources and responsibilities to steward for His glory, and that yielding our personal rights and expectations to Him helps us resolve irritations, anger, and worry.

Recognize That All Belongs to God

As the Creator of all things, God holds the certificate of ownership for the world and all the people in it. (See Psalm 24:1–2.) Christ’s ownership of His entire creation is emphasized in Colossians 1:16–17: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Those who have received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ are “doubly owned” by God, since Jesus purchased their redemption through His death and resurrection. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Corinthians 6:19–20).

Understand the Responsibilities of Stewardship

God is the Creator and Owner of all things, and along with the good gift of life, He entrusts resources to each person, including time, talents, relationships, and abilities. With every gift of God comes the responsibility to be a faithful steward of those resources.

For example, when granted the gift of family, a husband is responsible to love his wife and a wife is responsible to reverence her husband. Parents are responsible for training their children and caring for their physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual needs. Children are responsible to honor and obey their parents and other elders.

In all things, we are to fulfill our responsibilities for the glory of God. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

Identify Personal Rights and Expectations

In the areas of life where we have responsibilities, we also have personal rights and privileges—things we believe we deserve. Personal rights affect every facet of life: self, family, friends, knowledge, health, reputation, schedule, future plans, dating, money, clothes, music, activities, possessions, and so on.

Based on these rights, we construct expectations of others and of circumstances. Just because you are alive, you probably believe you have the right to be accepted as an individual, to express opinions, to earn and spend a living, to control your personal belongings, and to make decisions. You expect others to respect your rights and act in a way that fulfills your expectations. Consequently, we often overlook God’s ultimate ownership of all things and begin to take a personal interest in seeing that our rights and expectations are fulfilled. Then, instead of seeing rights and expectations as privileges and blessings that we might or might not receive, we cling to them selfishly.

When we don’t get something we think we deserve, our pride is wounded—anger and worry are our natural responses. Expectations are especially damaging within a family, since people tend to expect more of family members than they do of other people. They also may expect to “get away with” failing to fulfill responsibilities because of the family relationship.

A selfish focus sets us up for conflicts. “Only by pride cometh contention . . .” (Proverbs 13:10). We become more concerned about defending our rights and expectations than we are concerned about fulfilling our responsibilities. When offenses arise, the other party may feel justified in his actions, based on expectations of his own that we failed to fulfill—because we were not faithful to our responsibilities.

Yield Rights and Expectations to God

Only as we yield our rights and expectations to God are we free to focus on fulfilling our responsibilities. God is not as interested in giving us what we “deserve” as He is in our recognizing that He is the Owner of all things and that He is able to work all things together for good. He may choose to withhold something you expected to receive in order to help you grow in maturity or to reveal more of Himself to you. By yielding our rights to God, we can respond to life with patience and teachable hearts.

  • Identify Personal Rights
    Unresolved conflicts and irritations may indicate rights that need to be relinquished. Focus on areas of life where you have felt angry or worried. Discern your responsibilities in those areas, as well as the rights and expectations that you associate with them.
  • Yield Rights to God
    Remember that God owns all things. Through the grace and strength God provides for you, embrace the responsibilities that God has entrusted to you, but surrender to God the rights and expectations that accompany your responsibilities. This deliberate surrender of your rights and expectations frees those around you from the prison of your expectations and removes the grounds of many conflicts.
  • Transfer Ownership to God
    Give your rights and expectations to God. Trust Him to take good care of what belongs to Him. Remember that even if your hopes are not fulfilled, He is always able to work things together for good in your life.
  • Thank God for Whatever Happens

    In Scripture, we are challenged to thank God in all things. When you surrender your expectations to God, you’ll have a new freedom to rejoice in all circumstances, knowing that God is in charge and that He will take care of you.

    Surrendering your rights and expectations to God opens a whole new capacity for gratitude in your life. After all, if someone does something for you that you are expecting, you may not feel obligated to express gratitude. However, if you are not expecting anything, you will be delighted and your gratitude will bless others.

Resolve Anger and Worry

Don’t be surprised if surrendered rights are tested. As you consciously yield your rights to God, let go of your expectations, and learn to focus on your responsibilities instead of what you had expected from others, you might experience a challenging season in your life. Do not fear; God will sustain you, and His grace will be sufficient in your time of need.

When irritations arise, let the negative emotions of anger and worry motivate you to discern if there is an area of life that you haven’t fully relinquished to God’s control. Respond to your irritations with patience, trusting God to work out the situation for your good and for His glory—to develop your character, lead you to new opportunities, and help you mature in Christ.

This material is adapted from the Basic Seminar Textbook, pages 100–108.

For Further Study

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