Recently my daughter reminded me of a parting exhortation that I apparently repeated to all four of our daughters as they were growing up, every time they would leave home – regardless of whether it was for a few hours out with their friends, an overnighter or a week-long mission trip. I certainly remember saying it, but I was unaware that I said it every single time any of them would go off anywhere. Apparently, my message to them was so deeply ingrained in me that it had become my standard parting counsel to them whenever they would leave the protection and oversight of their parents. My continually repeated mantra as they were walking out the door was, “Don’t forget who you belong to!”
My daughter, Kara, recently wrote, “For most of my life, I was oblivious to the power behind my dad’s words. It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I began to comprehend the real power behind them. There was a very good reason why he repeatedly told me to not forget who I belonged to. I could have easily turned to him and said with a good bit of irritation, ‘Dad, you’ve already told me that – why do you keep telling me that?’ But that is the whole point – he knew how easily I forget, and how important it was that I be constantly reminded of who I really do belong to. This truth of who we belong to is the foundational cornerstone of our time here on earth and our life in Christ.”
Let me share with you why this idea of remembering or not forgetting who we belong to is so critical to living a successful life of stewardship.
The word “remember” is used over 1,200 times in the Bible. The word “forget” is used over 300 times. Why are these words used so frequently? It is really pretty simple. A proclivity to forget things is not the exclusive domain of the elderly. All of us are painfully prone to forget, often even very important things like our children’s names. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to run through all four of my daughters’ names before I finally got the right one. Husbands’ ability to forget important dates like anniversaries is legendary. Our inclination to forget is the reason we all use calendars and turn on alerts on our phone and computer. We have a lot on our mind and it is very easy to forget what is important.
What is really frustrating for me is that I can remember clearly some of the most trivial information from over 50 years ago, like my childhood home phone number, and yet I can’t remember my wife’s current cell phone number to save my life. I heard routinely as a youth from my parents, “How many times do I have to tell you…” Well, apparently, at least one more time. Young or old, we are a very forgetful people.
Consequently, we need tangible reminders so that the really important things remain the really important things in our lives. That is why we erect physical monuments and memorials, establish rituals and traditions and designate special holidays so we can remember what is just too important for us to forget.
Do you remember when Moses had the Israelites create a pile of twelve stones after they crossed over the Jordon into the Promised Land? Moses tells the people in Joshua 4:4-7, “We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.” The Jewish Passover was an annual celebration to remind Israel of their deliverance from Egypt. We need to be reminded repeatedly.
The early church, contrary to most churches today, celebrated the Lord’s Supper or communion on a weekly basis when they gathered to worship. Communion was established to be a weekly reminder of Jesus’ death on the cross just as worship was established to be a weekly reminder of His resurrection. Many pastors suggest that having communion on a weekly basis would lessen its meaningfulness. Maybe, but not doing so certainly will increase our forgetfulness.
Let me say that we all love to repeat what is important to us. And the more often we do it the more meaningful it becomes. How do you think family traditions are created – lots of meaningful repetition over long periods of time? What are your monuments, memorials, traditions and celebrations that help you remember what is most important to you and your family? We all have them and we all love them.
…Who You Belong To
So, who do you belong to? Paul says it this way in I Corinthians 6:19-20, “…you are not your own, you have been bought with a price.” He adds in Titus 2:13-14, “…Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Jesus made a defining comparison in John 8:47, “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
One Sunday I was preaching at a church that had just completed my thirteen week Who’s In Charge Here? small group video study. Before the service a distinguished, older gentleman came up to me, shook my hand and said, “Jay, the one thing in your study that had the single greatest impact on me was the idea that God owns everything, including me.” He went on to say, “I have been in the church all my life, but somehow this one truth had escaped me entirely.” He confessed, “I thought I was the one getting up each day and going to work and I was the one making money. It was mine. But when I came to understand God owns me and everything I have, it has changed everything in my life!” There is no doubt, once you finally get this foundational truth of who you belong to, it does change everything!
On the surface it may seem like a simple enough concept to grasp, but I can tell you that it is anything but simple to live out. The tentacles of who we belong to reach into every single area of our lives. God owns it all and God wants it all. Simple to say: Tough to live out.
No doubt Satan and his domain want to cloud our memory and cause us to forget this compelling truth at every turn. There is a cartoon that shows an old man standing outside Sodom and Gomorrah waving a sign, REPENT. Day after day he stood there waving his sign. Eventually, a man approached him and said, “Silly, old man. Do you really think that is going to change anyone?” The old man replied, “I am not waving this sign to change them. I am waving this sign to make sure they don’t change me.” What is the sign you are waving to make sure the world doesn’t change you?
You see, if we dare forget for even a short time who we belong to, we are going to start sailing off course – on our own course – and next thing we know, we’ll be back to thinking, acting and living like the rest of the world.
I cannot help but remember Joseph who, by God’s providence, had climbed from being a prisoner to second in command in Potiphar’s house. Life was as good as it could get for Joseph – except for Potiphar’s wife who “wanted” this “young buck” for herself. And when she pursued him, Joseph without hesitation rejected her advances with a profoundly rhetorical question in Genesis 39:9, “How could I do this great evil and sin against God?” What kept Joseph from giving in to what must have been an incredible temptation? It was not because it would have been a sin against Potiphar or even a sin against his wife or a sin against himself. What caused him to flee the temptation was his awareness of who he belonged to. And that knowledge made all the difference in how he was able to remain a man of character and honor.
How Will You Remember Who You Belong To?
So, how will you keep from inadvertently forgetting who you belong to? Let me offer a few suggestions. You could start changing your vocabulary. You could refer to your possessions as God’s car, God’s home, God’s children, God’s retirement account, God’s business and God’s time. You could place some key Scriptures in strategic locations in your home and at work to help you not forget who you belong to. Better yet, you could memorize some key Scriptures so the Owner can use them to remind you on occasion who you belong to. Maybe you could write on the cover of the check book, God’s Money. You get the idea? We need lots of reminders. We are a very forgetful people.
And of all the things in this life that are too important to forget, we most definitely do not want to forget who we belong to!
Dowloand PDF: Don’t Forget Who You Belong To
© 2012 Stewardship Ministries | All Rights Reserved.
E. G. “Jay” Link is the President of Stewardship Ministries, a teaching, training, mentoring and content ministry working with churches and nonprofit leaders to equip them with the biblical knowledge and training resources needed to serve all ages and all economic levels of believers to effectively live their lives as good and faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to them. He is the author of three books, “Spiritual Thoughts on Material Things: Thirty Days of Food for Thought,” “To Whom Much is Given: Navigating the Ten Life Dilemmas Affluent Christians Face” and “Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter.”