Recognizing the resources we have is half the battle to living a life that honors God with everything we have been given.
Most people are familiar with Nicolas Cage, a man who was briefly one of Hollywood’s highest paid actors.
What’s less well known is how Cage blew through his fortune. Of course, he had notable purchases like two castles in Europe, two private islands in the Bahamas and 50 rare cars, including a 1955 Jaguar D-type that he kept parked…in his billiards room.
However, he also purchased a pet shark, crocodile, octopus—a steal, we hear, at $150,000—and a pair of albino cobras named Moby and Sheela. Yes, you read that right. He later attempted to write off the octopus and cobra-related expenses on his taxes, claiming that he studied the oversized cephalopod to improve his acting and needed the cobras for protection.
If you just laughed, we’re guessing that the IRS agents who read Nicolas Cage’s tax return forms did too because they slapped him with a 6.2 million unpaid tax bill.
The Three Danger Zones
While many of us are unlikely to ever have the immense fortune of a Hollywood actor, this doesn’t mean that we haven’t been given enormous resources. What’s more, many of us waste these gifts pretty flippantly, if we’re entirely honest. In a Pulpit Series newsletter, David Wilkerson lists three areas where Christians are often poor stewards of God’s gifts:
1. Time, the most precious resource heaven ever entrusted to the care of mankind, is frequently forgotten about then put to poor use.
2. Power, another of Christ's glorious resources, is often misused and harms others.
3. Faith, a blessing from the Holy Spirit, ends up ignored when we think we have control and unused when we experience large crises.
Wasting these gifts God has given us would be bad enough on their own, but David notes an even more disturbing revelation about poor stewardship in his study of Luke 16:1-13 and the parable of the dishonest manager.
“I asked the Holy Spirit why this steward did not simply repent and throw himself upon the mercy of his Master. Why did he go right out and start planning and scheming to protect himself and his future? The answer, I believe, is that he had gone too far…. Self–interest had hardened him; he was given over to a divided heart.”
Warnings or conviction can pass by without making an impression on people who have become locked into their own plans. They know what they deserve to have from God, and he better hand it out quickly. If he fails to come through, it’s because he’s not a good God…right?
Once we’ve begun to poorly manage any of these areas, it becomes all too easy to justify our misrule by believing that these resources are our right, rather than a gift.
Fiddling Away the Hours
It’s a safe bet to say most people, if not everyone, has a couple activities that are black hole for time. We disappear into that pursuit and emerge much, much later with nothing to show for the hours spent.
Now, here is an important distinction: the relentlessly busy Christian is not inheriently a holier person. It’s entirely possible to not make good use of time in the middle of hectic activity, and besides, God commands us to honor the Sabbath. Resting is not considered a waste of time in the Bible.
Attempting to lay out a list of things that are a waste of time, though, would be futile. What may be a poor use of time for one person could be an incredibly fruitful time of rest or activity for another.
Instead, this series of questions may be more useful.
First, is the activity I’m engaged in honoring God? It may be exercising a talent God’s given you or working well out of respect for your boss. Maybe you’re building relationships with other people or making something that will bless others.
Second, if I’m not working, am I resting? This is real rest we’re talking about here, the kind that refreshes you, brings you closer to God and gets you ready to be active in community again.
Third, do I check in regularly with God to see if there are areas that I haven’t given over to him?
Fourth, am I listening for his response? Really listening and not just shooting out the prayer and then hurrying along before I get an answer I don’t like? These questions only work if we’re willing to be honest with ourselves and God.
The Gracious or Terrible Power of All People
Most people aren’t CEOs of major companies with hundreds or thousands of employees. Most people aren’t making executive decisions about how millions of dollars will be allotted.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t have power to help or harm others.
In his study of Luke 7, David Wilkerson pulls out the powerful heart of the story of Jesus at Simon the Pharisee’s house. “I confess that as I placed myself in this scene, my first thought was, ‘Of course, I have Jesus’ spirit. I’m a friend of sinners. I have spent years in ministry to addicts and alcoholics, to prostitutes, to the worst of sinners. I don’t have any Phariseeism in me.’
“Indeed, most of us think, ‘I’m not that kind of believer. I don’t judge others.’ Yet it is the spirit of Phariseeism that reasons, ‘I’m not like others….’
“Looking away from Simon and his guests, Jesus turned to the woman and said, ‘Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much…. Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace’ (Luke 7:47, 50 KJV).
“Jesus was revealing here why he came: to befriend and restore the fallen, the friendless, those overtaken by sin.”
Christ was setting a high standard for his followers. Rather than help those around us who are clearly struggling with sins or sorrows, we can be tempted to turn away and go about our day. Worse yet, we might add to others’ burdens by condemning them. Even when we point out the truth of their situation, if it’s done without compassion, we’ve probably not helped them any.
A word of encouragement or exhortation out of a loving spirit will have great impact on another person’s soul.
Faith in the Small and Large
In hard times, we have an unfortunate tendency to both forget what God has done for us in the past and also feel like our prayers are bouncing right off of heaven’s gates.
When times are good, it’s worse yet because not praying at all is all too easy.
We must be constantly reminded that every aspect of our lives is dependent on God’s power to even continue on day by day.
David Wilkerson points to the solution in one of his devotionals, “All believers are given a portion or degree of faith and that portion must be built up into an unshakable, unwavering faith. How does this happen?
“As faith grows, it is strengthened in one way only: by hearing and trusting in God’s Word.”
As we pray, study God’s Word and meditate on his promises, we will become better stewards of his good gifts.