Tuesday, July 01, 2003

A Brief Visit from Brother Thomas Delphius

You know, God is...something, isn't He? He keeps calling us back no matter how far away we stroll.

Because many times, we don't run from God. We don't try to escape him so dramatically, we book the first ship to Joppa (or Chicago, or Dallas, or wherever). Sometimes we merely "stroll" away from God. Very smoothly, still following in God's "general direction", but we may take a step to the left or right, as the mood strikes us. We think that we can micromanage our lives.

We go to church and we agree totally with God. "Oh, yeah, God, you are in control of the cosmos, and you are in control of me. Lord of my life. You bet." But we ignore him in the seemingly unimportant things. You recent graduates may understand this. You sought God's will for your college choice, you ask him (plead with him sometimes) to bring your future mate.

But how many of us ask God what to do with our discretionary funds? Our free time? Our stupid daily choices? Do we think that the same God who tells us he knows how many hairs we lose every day (basically, right?), this same deeply involved Creator, doesn't care how we interact with the girl at the drive-thru?

Now, I'm not advocating a fanatical, paralyzing dependence on God. I knew a guy in college who would pray every day for God to tell him what shirt to wear. This is a bit much, I think. After all, God gave us a brain, to function in life.

But the kind of things I mentioned earlier are more important than clothes or what color we should dye our hair. Because money and time and relationships are resources that God has given us to use wisely. It's that old church word "stewardship."

I always thought of stewardship as only having to do with tithe. But it really goes much deeper. Stewardship first makes us aware that we never own what we own. Everything is borrowed. And most of us can at least pay lip service to this idea.

But stewardship also concerns realizing the difference between what we want and what we need. And just as important is the deeper question of why we think we need what we want.

You see, I've really been convicted lately about how much junk I own that I never use, never touch. It just sits and gathers dust. And yet I'm struggling to pay off debts and bills on a regular basis. Why? Because I'm poor or underprivileged? No. I waste what I have, then complain about not having more.

Here's a quick test, if this seems too picky. Calculate how much money you actually spend in a month on, say, McDonald's. Or coffee. Or music. Or clothes. Or books. If thirty bucks could feed and educate one foreign child each month, how many months (years?) could you give to someone who has nothing?

I'm not trying to bring you down. Actually, yes, I am. But not to be hurtful. What I'm getting at is, are we really being good stewards of the resources that God has given us?

The immediate reaction to the "Sally Struthers pitch" that I just gave is, God gave us these blessings to enjoy--why should we feel guilty? And I understand. Part of me echoes the same thing. But think about this. How much of Jesus' life is spent giving, versus enjoying the benefits of being famous, let alone, God's son? Did he say to the Rich Young Ruler, "Go and enjoy the blessings God has given you, giving thanks to God for your life?" This would have been theologically sound, right? He would still have been a good person. But Jesus didn't say that. My Bible reads that Jesus said, "Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and then come follow me."

Some people try to uber-theologize that command, and say that what Jesus was really doing was demonstrating a deeper spiritual truth about obedience and righteousness. And that is true. But I believe that Jesus really wanted the young man to liquidate his vast amount of garbage and walk away from it. Because these things of earth that clog our lives steal not only financial resources (because one CD or shirt is never enough, is it?), but they steal another valuable resource. Our time.


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