From Obedience to Ownership

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Our son Leo loves his trains. And his cars. And pretty much every toy in his room. Which is great, except he doesn’t love sharing them with his little sister. When asked to give Katie a turn, he might hand over his least favorite engine or a block he’s bored with, but sometimes he’s downright Gollumish about it.

As his parents, we get that his behavior is developmentally normal and we do our best to help him understand why sharing is important. “It makes Kate feel happy when you share with her and sad when you don’t. Don’t you like it when Kate shares her toys with you? It’s good to share. God wants us to share.” Etc.

We’re glad when he hands over the goods, but ultimately we want him to do the right thing because he wants to, not just because he has to. We recognize that this is going to take some time.

As adults, we might be (slightly) better at sharing with others, but we all understand the difference between doing what’s required and doing what’s desired. Lately, I’ve been thinking of this tension as the gap between obedience and ownership.



About what we do. About who we are.
Focus is on maintaining. Focus is on maturing.
Concerned with the rules. Concerned with the relationship.
Expressed through our habits. Expressed through our hearts.

Let’s look at how this applies to our relationship with God.

As his kids, there’s no doubt that he wants us to obey him. But obedience is just the start. His primary concern is with our why, not just our what. So he’s always in the process of trying to move us from “I’m doing this because you want me to” to “I’m doing this because we want me to.”

Making the move from obedience to ownership can be painful. God may let us fail to show us that we’ve been doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Or he may help us succeed in order to reveal how hollow our victories are when our hearts aren’t in them.

Anyone can obey. A dog can obey. A slave can obey. A soldier can obey. But ownership? That’s the stuff of relationship. That’s the stuff of character formation. That’s the stuff of growing up.

Where do you need to move from obedience to ownership? Take some time to ask God, “How do you want this area of my life to become a part of who I am and not just be something I do?”


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