"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, December 23, 2011

Raising the Standard: Thriftiness Is Making The Most Of Limited Resources

"If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" ~ Luke 16:11
"Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." ~ 1 Corinthians 4:2
"Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." ~ Ephesians 5:16
Living Lessons on Thriftiness From the Pages of Scripture:
The purpose of thriftiness is not to hoard more for ourselves, but to live on less so that we have more to give to others. God is the master of making a little go far. He kept the Israelites' shoes intact for forty years in the wilderness, and multiplied a cup of oil for a widow and her two sons. During a time of special need, Jesus demonstrated how He could make the best use of another's limited resource when it was first given to Him. How is the Need to Make the Best Use of Limited Resources Illustrated in Scripture?
This is the story of two young boys. Although living at different times in history, each one saw the miraculous provision of God for his family in response to his faith and obedience. The first boy was the older son of a widow during Elisha's day. Who was the second boy? The boy with loaves and fish.
The quiet weeping of a mother could be heard by her son. He understood; he, too, shared in her sorrow. His father had died. They were a close family, and the father was greatly missed by him, his mother, and his little brother. But the loss of the father was now to be deepened by further tragedy. The creditors were coming to take the boy and his younger brother away from their sorrowing mother. They would have to work to pay off the debts which their father had accumulated. With no food in the house except a pot of oil, the grieving mother had nowhere to turn but to the Lord. Who began to work in a very unique and marvelous way. God directed the prophet Elisha to tell the mother to get empty pots and pans from her neighbors. "Get as many as you can," he said. The boy and his brother worked with their mother, and soon they had a house full of empty pots. Then they shut the door. The older son began bringing the pots to his mother. She poured her oil into each one according to the instructions of the prophet. Miraculously the oil was never used up. It filled every container! The jubilant widow sold this oil, paid the creditors, and lived on the rest. The account of this widow and her sons was passed on years later to another young boy. He also had a mother in need. Their provisions for food were sparse. Rather than having rich wheat, they survived on barley, the grain of the poor. Like the widow's son of earlier years, this boy purposed to help his mother. One day he listened to the excitement of villagers going out into the countryside to hear a wise teacher. That gave him an idea. He went home, got what he needed, and hurried out to join them. That day the boy listened to the rich and refreshing truths of Christ. The boy's faith was stirred as he heard and understood. He decided to put the teachings on giving into action and made his way up to the front of the crowd. He told a disciple by the name of Andrew that he wanted to give something to Christ. Andrew agreed to tell Jesus about his offer. A few minutes later Andrew returned and received from the boy a basket of five barley loaves and two fish. Christ blessed the, broke them, and then gave them to His disciples to feed over 5,000 people! Not only did Christ satisfy the hungry multitude, but He had His disciples gather up twelve baskets of food that was left over. With these baskets Christ was able to demonstrate to this boy and his mother the potential of multiplied returns when limited resources are first given to Him. {From 2 Kings 4:1-7 and John 6:5-14]
Why Was the Boy the Only One With Food?
The fact that the boy had five loaves of bread suggests that the food was intended for sale rather than for his own use. It was just too much for one person to eat. There was a food supply in Jerusalem designated for the poor. A daily ration was the equivalent of one loaf of bread. The loaves were usually flat, about seven inches across and one inch thick. Thus, five loaves would have met the daily needs of five men. The boy was probably a bread vendor working in the market places. When the people left the city in the morning, he followed them. From the word in John's account which is used to describe the fish, we know that they were cooked or roasted and intended to be used as a relish for the bread. The fact that the loaves were made of barley is significant. Barley bread was a staple in the diet of poor people. The growing season for barley was shorter than that for wheat, and the grain thrived in less futile soil. As a result, the price of barley grain was about half that of wheat. (See 2 Kings 7:1.) The boy may have been trying to help support a very poor family by selling barley bread to other poor people.
What Did the Boy Gain by Giving Jesus All of His Food?
First, he gained a good meal. His job was to sell his food, not to eat it. By giving the bread and fish to Jesus, the boy was able to eat as much as he wanted along with everyone else in the crowd. Second, he gained a valuable lesson in business. Solomon had advised the businessmen of his day, "Cast thy bread [literally, barley loaves] upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days" (Ecclesiastes 11:1). The boy could have exploited the situation by selling the loaves to the highest bidders. But when Andrew asked for the food, he gave it up recognizing a wiser investment. The boy benefited in another way by entrusting all of his resources to the Lord. After the meal was over, the disciples were asked to "...gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost" (John 6:12). It is likely that the twelve baskets of food which remained were given back to the boy. Finally, he gained a full and personal impact of the miracle. It was his food that the Lord used to feed the crowd. This was no mere man. This was truly the Son of God.
Why Do All Four Gospels Record This Particular Miracle?
The miracle has profound meaning as to the Lord's nature. Jesus explained its significance the following day in Capernaum. The crowds wanted to make Him their king. He had satisfied their hunger with barley bread and fish, and now they desired more miracles of a similar kind. But the Lord rebuked them for missing the point. "... Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6:26-27). The poor wanted a Messiah to deliver them from the oppression of the rich. Jesus declared that they were just as needy spiritually and should hunger instead for spiritual food. He claimed to be the Bread which alone could satisfy their needs. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (John 6:51).
Illustrated in the World of Nature:
There are over 14,000 different kinds of mosses. Some varieties grow in hot deserts while others grow on the mountains of Antarctica. One species of moss grows 180 feet underwater. Most moss plants have a typical compact shape and grow in dense clusters close to the ground. One such moss, known as sphagnum moss, grows new generations on top of dead ones, forming thick layers of a substance called peat. In some countries peat is used for fuel and in the manufacture of paper and fabrics.
How is Making the Best Use of Limited Resources Illustrated in the World of Nature?
History provides the amazing accounts of two field workers. One was more famous, or rather infamous, and the other was more common. From outward appearances they both looked alike, but what a vast difference on the inside! And what a stark contrast resulted from their work. One day the older and more mature field worker passed by a piece of land that no one wanted. It was filled with rocks. It was so barren and desolate that hardly a patch of grass could be seen anywhere on it. This was just the kind of challenge that he wanted. He went to work immediately exercising all the abilities which God had entrusted to him. It was hard work, but finally he was able to get established. He had a major advantage over his look-alike, younger field worker. His way of life required less resources, and he made the best use of everything he had. His basic motivation was to give rather than to get. While he carried out this incredible work of reclaiming the soil, the younger field worker happened to wander by a lush potato field. It was here that he went to work. He was also very diligent. His purpose, however, was to take from others and consume it himself. The potato fields provided an ideal place for this. Unnoticed at first, he began to feed on the potatoes. Soon he claimed more and more for himself. When the owners of the field finally caught up with him, he had already put into motion a devastating plan that was impossible for them to stop. Potato field after potato field came under his control, and whatever fell into his hand he destroyed. Soon the people in nearby villages were concerned, and those who lived in the cities became alarmed. They all depended upon the potato for their survival, both physically and financially. The potato was the staple crop of their country. For two devastating years this destructive field worker carried out his deadly work. Soon, people began to die of starvation. They died by the thousands. By the time this field worker was finished, about 750,000 people had died. This destructive field worker was the spore, or seed, of a fungus. He was the cause of the 1847 potato famine in Ireland. Meanwhile, his look-alike field worker continued to accomplish marvelous changes in the rocky land. It was becoming an area that would eventually sustain the lives of many cattle. This worker was literally turning the surface of the rocks into soil, and the longer he worked, the more he increased its richness. This farm worker was the spore, or seed, of the moss, which continues to be a living demonstration of the potential of thriftiness.
The Characteristics of the Moss in Scripture:
The moss plant can do in the natural world what God tells us to do in the spiritual world --- cling to the rock and grow. In Scripture a rock is a symbol of Christ. "...That Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:4). Christians are to build their lives on the Rock.
"...A wise man...built his house upon a rock" ~ Matthew 7:24
Christ established His Church upon the Rock.
"...Upon this rock I will build my church..." ~ Matthew 16:18
Moss is able to cling to a rock and grow because it requires so little for survival. Thus Christians are instructed, "...Having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1 Timothy 6:8). Moss also retains water in itself, and thus its roots have the primary purpose of anchoring the moss plant to the rock. The high moisture retention allows the moss to grow during times of drought. Jesus compares those who receive His Word and then fall away from it, to a seed that falls in stony places. They "dry up" because they have no root in themselves. (See Matthew 13:20-21.) In contrast to this, the seed (or spores) of moss do remain because they have water within themselves. As moss clings to the rock, it turns the rock into soil for its own future growth as well as that of other plants. As Christians, we are to edify the lives of others as we grow in Christ.

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