Psalm 101: The Implications of Being Owned

I remember walking with my dad and one of his employees outside the company building in Tallmadge, Ohio many years ago. In the course of the conversation, we passed the many company trucks and vans sitting outside the large building and the employee asked my dad if he ever thought about the fact that he owned all this stuff and how hundreds of employees worked for him. The employee went on to say that he would probably think about it all the time if he were in my dad’s place.

There was a bit of a pause in the conversation as we both waited for my dad to answer. And to be honest, I don’t remember what he said. I’m sure he said something about how it was a privilege to be able to serve the employees or something like that, but his answer isn’t really the important part of the story: it was the question.

I’ve thought about that question, or questions much like it, over the intervening 30 years and have concluded that, if asked, I think I would pause, look at everything that was considered mine, and then say, “I don’t really own anything, you know?”

I know that sounds odd, but if you think about it for even a little while, what is ownership but extended leasing? Take my dad for instance. Within ten years of that conversation he had passed away and everything that was once considered his passed into the hands of someone else. We may “own” stuff for a while, but eventually, it passes on to another person or, in many cases, becomes old, worn out, and then tossed on the garbage heap. “Ownership” really is only a temporary state of things.

But this all changes if we are discussing an owner who never dies or an object that never fades nor is destroyed. If my dad was eternal and his business likewise, then the employee’s question would have been much different, but that was not the case for my dad did not, and his company will not survive the long haul of human existence.

Psalm 100 tells us we are to rejoice in the Lord and serve him with gladness, giving thanks to him. But the psalmist really only gives one reason why we should rejoice in him: God made us, and we are his. Yes, as politically incorrect as it may be to say, we God’s property. We are not our own. Unlike my father and his company, the owner (God) is eternal and what he owns (us) are told we will live throughout eternity. This is true ownership, and this fact should cause us to ask a very important question: If we are owned by God, what is it that God, our owner, wants of us?

Thankfully, we don’t have to look very far for the answer to this question. David, a man after God’s own heart and the author of Psalm 101, provides the answer. Notice, if you will, the number of times David says “I will.” By my count, David says it ten times in eight verses which is a massive amount of repetition and should indicate that the main point has to do with that phrase.

If we are owned by God, what should we do? Well, read the chapter again. No, really, I mean it. Take a break from reading this entry and go read Psalm 101 again and then come back here.

Done? Great.

Did you notice how David’s response to being owned by God has to do with pursuing morally upright things? Did you notice David did not want to be in the presence of evil? Did you notice David wants to walk with those whose way is blameless? Did you also notice there is nothing about occupation or vocation in this psalm?

David is saying is if we are owned by God then we should want to be like him. We should want to be holy and pure. We should want to keep those things that are evil and degrading out of our house and away from our sight. We should want to surround ourselves with other people who are like-minded and desiring to pursue the way that is blameless. It seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But it isn’t, is it?

Why is it we often want to fill our houses with depraved things? Why do we want to fill our eyes and ears with the images and sounds of Sin? Why do we want to model our daily thought patterns after arrogant and evil people? Why are we drawn to these things?

Maybe you aren’t enticed and drawn by these things and people. Maybe you have won that battle and are not tempted anymore to be deceitful. Maybe impurity isn’t attractive to you. Maybe you have put arrogance and pride behind you. Maybe, but I would guess not. I would guess most people reading this are like me, and you live in the tension between longing to be a man (or woman) after God’s own heart and longing to roll around in your own vomit. I mean, when I put it that way, no one really wants to do that, do we? But that’s really the choice, isn’t it? The little sins we hold on to. The infidelities. The pride. The condescension. The lust. The anger and hatred. We love all of these while we still want to be like God. What a mess we are.

And yet, (not discounting the work of the Spirit), I think we wallow in our sins and relish the numbing sensation mainly because we have forgotten we are not our own. We have forgotten we are owned by God. We have forgotten our owner has the right to decide how we should live. And, unlike my dad and his company, the bonds of ownership between God and us will never be broken. The implications of this fact are certainly worth pondering.

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