Summary: 1. The world belongs to God. 2. All we have belongs to God. 3. Our lives belong to God.
It is said that Bishop Edwin Hughes once delivered a sermon on “God’s Ownership” of all that we have. In his congregation there was a very wealthy parishioner who took offense at his message. That week he called and asked the Bishop to come over to his home for lunch. During their visit, the man walked Bishop Hughes through his elaborate estate — gardens, woodlands, and farm. Coming back to the grand house they stood overlooking all the property of the man, who said, “Now are you going to tell me, that all this does not belong to me?” Bishop Hughes smiled and simply said, “Ask me that same question a hundred years from now.”
It reminds me of the farmer in one of my churches who took offense at us thanking God for the abundant crop that year. He said to his wife, “I didn’t see God out there plowing the field and planting the crop!” No, of course not, but neither did we see the farmer out there making the seed grow. It is like the parable of Jesus when he said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mark 4:26-27).
Christians are people who understand the world differently from others. We believe and know that God created the world. And because he is the Creator of the world, the world belongs to him. God also created all human life, therefore all the people of the world belong to him as well. All the plants and animals belong to him also, because they exist as a result of his creative acts. And all the things that we have made belong to him, because they were made from the material which God provided. So all the world and all the people of the world, and all the things in the world belong to God. As the Psalmist said, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
The first point I want to make this morning is: The world belongs to God. The earth is the Lord’s. But not only this earth, but this galaxy, and all the galaxies beyond. All that exists everywhere belongs to God, the grand Architect of the universe. This is not the devil’s world, it is God’s world. It is the world he loves. Remember the Scripture that says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). I remember the day when the truth of that Scripture dawned on me. I was out in the wilderness drinking in the beauty, and out of my mouth came the words, “God, you really do love the world, don’t you!” I think I had in the back of my mind that God was mad at the world; that he saw it as dirty and sinful. But I began to understand in a new way that God infinitely cares for the beautiful world he has made and wants to redeem it. He has not given up on the world and he is drawing the world to himself. God is on the move in ways that we cannot always see or understand.
The hymn says,
This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears
all nature sings, and round me rings
the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
his hand the wonders wrought.
The message that Scripture helps us to understand is that this is God’s world, and we are not in charge. This is not our world. We are not in control. God is in control, and he will have his way. It also means that we have a responsibility. It is a good idea to go back and read the story of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 again. When God placed man in the garden, he said, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). Sometimes people make fun of those they call “environmental wackos,” and it is possible to be extremist about any position, but Scripture says that we have been given the responsibility to care for the world. It is our job to take care of the earth. Shouldn’t Christians be more concerned about the environment of the world than anyone else, since we believe it is God’s world and the product of his creation — the world which he has handed into our care? God cares for the world, and so should we. Psalm 65:9 sings about God saying,