If you were to walk into my bedroom at any given moment it would be a mess. Not gross three day old pizza mess but clothes everywhere mess. I use my dresser and hang clothes in my closet but somehow I still manage to have an overflowing hamper and random piles of clothes on my floor or bed. I am constantly giving stuff away and I've been diligent about limiting my spending. But since most days require three outfit changes (corporate work clothes, gym clothes, and then something casual) controlling the mess has been an uphill battle.
Thrift stores get more of my money than malls so I like to think I'm a good steward when it comes to my finances. However, my recent mission trip reminded me of how far I still have to go. I saw kids with ill-fitting or no shoes while I stood there in a pair of Nikes that looked relatively new but were reserved for wear at service projects because the rubber (hole-free) soles were far too worn, in my mind, for gym use. On the last day of our trip we were called to leave items in a donate pile for the groups we had worked with that week.
|| Excuse me while I get on my soapbox. ||
I was so angry that some people gave nothing. Giving the excuse that they would need the knee length gym shorts or color of the day t-shirts again next year for this trip. It blew my mind that they could hold on so tightly to something they would wear one time over the course of the year when the items left behind would probably become an everyday uniform for those that would receive them. I might sound a bit harsh but the suburban area that serves as home to my church community is literally one of the most affluent in the state and the southeast. 16 year-olds have first cars that are worth more than both of my parents cars put together. They could afford to leave some shorts y'all.
|| Steps off box. ||
So it was no surprise on our second Sunday back that we talked to our students about, you guessed it, stewardship.
During my first small group back we started Jen Hatmaker's study Pulling the Thread. I'd done this study before and I'd read her book 7 so I knew what was coming. That didn't make it any less impactful when I reheard the story of the girl who couldn't continue the mission work she longed to do because she was so entangled in debt. And it didn't hurt any less when I was reminded that what we consider (lower) middle class here in America equates to being in the top 4% of world earners, ouch.
I'd already decided to write on stewardship when last night at a young adult service on marriage I was given yet another example. We had guest speakers and the wife is a successful songwriter. She shared a story of how after signing her first publishing deal she spent $2,000 on a backpack just because she could. She lamented how foolish she had been and said "do you know how many kids could've eaten off that $2,000? Do you know what God could've done with that?"
I thought of how I could never spend $2,000 on a backpack, even if I had it, I'm just too frugal. But then I was reminded of the times I've paid close to $300 just to dye my hair lighter for the summer. I could've put that money towards someone's tuition, mission trip, rent, etc. My "little bit" could've made a difference but instead I chose to be selfish "just because I could". I think often times, unless a need is put directly in our faces, we forget that there is a trade-off between what we did with our time/money/gift and how God could have used it. Let's read Psalm 24:1:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
Y'all everything is the Lord's …everything. That includes our paychecks. That includes our time and each day He's blessed us with life. That includes our talents and abilities. Not only is everything His but also everyone; "and all who live in it". Not just those people who look and think and act like you but all. That homeless guy that asks you for change when you go into the city; he's the Lords. The woman selling her body in order to feed her children; she's the Lords. The elderly confined to little rooms in little communities because the rest of the world can't be bothered with them; they're His too. And they all have hearts aching to know His love and we've each been given something that can assist in filling that need.
Read the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) below. Then take some time to reflect on your life. What gifts has God given you (it could be disposable income, a position of influence, an awesome singing voice, a welcoming smile…anything)? In what ways could you be a better steward of those gifts (could you give more, could you connect people, could you spend less time in bed and more time visiting those that feel forgotten)? It's easy to get caught up in a life that's all about "my grades, my career, my family, my dreams" but be reminded today that as an ambassador of God you are called to look outside that bubble and be a reflection of Him on this earth.
For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’