Not your own

You’ve probably heard someone humorously say, “my body is a temple”. That’s an idea taken from a letter Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth. He wrote: “…Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Many of us are familiar with the first part of this verse, but, until recently, I’d not considered the rest of the verse.  In this passage, Paul was teaching on the implications of sexual immorality. His conclusion was this: The Spirit of God dwells in us because we were redeemed from slavery to sin and death at a price. Therefore, we cannot do as we please because we belong to our Redeemer. In fact, not even our bodies belong to us anymore [1 Corinthians 6:12-20].

Pause and consider how countercultural this teaching is in today’s world, where the mantra is: “my body is mine; I can do with it as I please”. While the context of this passage is sexual immorality, the principle applies much further. If I’m not my own, then nothing I have truly belongs to me. This includes my money, my possessions and even my kids. It’s worth noting that Paul’s teaching wasn’t new [see Jeremiah 31:33, Zechariah 2:8]. Essentially, if I am a child of God, then, I am God’s possession [1 Peter 2:9]. So, I’m free to choose or reject Jesus. But if I choose Him, I’m no longer my own master. I do as He says. Consequently, I become a steward of all that God has given me, including my body, because I answer to Him.

This is one of those parts of Scripture that confronts my paradigms of life because the concept of stewardship implies there’s accountability. The steward always has to give account to the owner [see Matthew 25:14-30]. As I was reflecting on the fact that my body is not my own, a thought occurred to me. Let’s assume God has given me 100 years to live [see Psalm 139:16], but through poor habits (we always have free will), I wreck my body and die before my time, I’ll have to answer for not taking care of my body. Furthermore, as a husband and father, I’ll have to give account for how I treat my wife and raise my kids because they belong to another. The same applies to anyone God puts in my charge. I’ll also answer for how I used my time, talents and possessions. It will matter if I used them to serve myself or God’s purposes.

On the other hand, if I’m a steward, then I’m free of the burden of ownership. I think of how stressed I get when life doesn’t turn out as I expect. How liberating would it be to be convinced that, once I’ve done what God asks of me, He bears responsibility for the outcome of my life because I live at His behest [Philippians 1:21-22]. Imagine living free from the tyrannies of anxiety, worry and fear because God is responsible for my family [Psalm 103:17, 112:1-3], my safety [Psalm 91, Job 1:10], providing my needs [Matthew 6:25-34, Psalm 23], my results in life [1 Corinthians 12:4,11] and fulfilling my desires [Psalm 37:4]. Therefore, I simply do what He says and rest in His assurance [Hebrews 3:7-12]. Such freedom would allow me to enjoy all that God has given me while I truly live for Him. I could love freely, hold things loosely and give generously from a place of peace and rest, just as God intended.

Reading this could either prompt cynicism because these ideas are alien to our culture, or overwhelm you because you realise you don’t have it in you to live like this. If you’re in the former category, I can’t help. I didn’t write the Bible. But if like me, you’re in the latter category, there’s good news. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be stress-free stewards in our own strength. He knows we need help, and so, He gave us a Helper [John 14:16]. The Holy Spirit is in us to help and guide us to live as Jesus intended. Lest we forget, Jesus didn’t die to save us so that we could be doing our own thing while we wait to die and go to heaven. He has work for us to do for the rest of our time on earth [Matthew 28:19-20, Ephesians 2:10].

Being a good steward is challenging. Unfortunately, we also have to contend with an enemy actively working to derail us. He tries to deceive us into focusing on self-preservation despite the assurances God has given us. So many unwisely forget to number their days [Psalm 90:12]. Like the rich fool, they spend their days accumulating more and living for themselves, forgetting that they have One to whom they must give an account [Luke 12:16-21]. Self-centredness and self-preservation fight the purposes of God in our lives [John 12:25-26]. So, we must radically examine our lives to establish if we’re acting as stewards or owners of our bodies, money, possessions, time, kids, etc.

I must confess that I’m still wrestling with these truths. I’m certainly not a model steward. Nevertheless, I’ve realised that for anyone to be convicted of the truth of Scripture such that they live it out, the Holy Spirit must intervene. We must also trust Him for guidance [John 16:8-13]. Moreover, I’ve resolved never to argue with Scripture. God doesn’t want us to live miserable, unfulfilled lives. He’s a loving Father, not a masochist. His word is always for our benefit, even the aspects we don’t like [2 Timothy 3:16-17]. So, I take my struggles to Him [Hebrews 4:14-16]. I encourage you to do the same because a great reward awaits us in heaven [Ephesians 1:13-14]. That reward isn’t for owners; it’s for good and faithful stewards [Matthew 25:23].  

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