Who would have thought we could learn a stewardship lesson from a president—after all, next week we celebrate Presidents' Day. Harry Truman teaches us about things that belong to others, and as Christians we know that everything belongs to God. What we have is not our own, but rather a loan from God. We use our gifts until God calls them back at death. As Jesus said, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48). We do not customarily think this way.
Harry Truman did and instructs us about his unique stewardship. Merle Miller in his book, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, relates this story:
As nearly as he could remember, Harry’s last act in the White House was returning a pencil or maybe it was a pen to the desk of the man he had borrowed it from. “Everything,” he said, “all of it belongs to the people. I was just privileged to use it for a while. That’s all. And since it was only lent to me, and by that I’m including the power of the Presidency, such as it is, I had to try to use whatever it was with great care so that I could pass it on to the next fella in the best condition possible. And for the most part I think you can say I succeeded."
Mr. Truman understood that the people loaned the Presidential office to him as a steward only. Stewardship, rightly understood, proceeds not from what we give to God but rather from what God has loaned to us. This is the first principle of Christian stewardship: Everything belongs to God. Thanks, Harry!