(October 3, 1990)
God gave me a test today — and I flunked it.
A couple of young fellows are re-roofing our condo unit. They have been there two or three days in the hot sun, their radio blaring country music. Last night I noticed an orange cord through the kitchen window. It appeared to be hanging off the roof.
Today I noticed the cord was plugged into our outside power outlet. Since each unit pays for their own power, I wondered what was going on. The workers were close to the edge so I asked them if they realized their cord was running off my power meter. They were very embarrassed, one climbed down the aluminum extension ladder and he promptly unplugged their radio.
I came inside feeling very smug. As my great aunt would have said, “These whippersnappers will try anything.” Then I sat down at the computer to start a new article — one of these, in which I generally try to match a daily experience with a spiritual truth. Here is the truth that came to mind: “Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you, turn him not away” (Matthew 5:42). My smugness vanished.
The ordinary person is most apt to stick up for their rights, or at least make sure that others are not allowed to get away with taking something that does not belong to them. Few approve of grasping, greedy misers, but most of us think nothing wrong with defending our property and certainly our pocketbooks...
Yet Jesus calls Christians to a radical lifestyle. We are not supposed to conform to the world. For one thing, not only is it true that we didn’t bring anything into this world and we cannot take anything with us when we leave, neither do we have pure ownership of anything. The Bible says HE “owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” not the person whose brand they bear.
Christians are to live under the principle of stewardship. That is, God owns all; we are required to take proper care of that, which, by divine providence, is under our care. My home, my family, my money, even my time, are the property of God for which He holds me accountable. The same is true for everyone else.
Another principle important to Christians, is that God supplies all our needs. If, in the circumstances of life, someone has a need and we have the supply, we can freely give away what we have, knowing God will take care of us. It’s not indiscriminately throwing money around but wise stewardship, exercised in faith. Sounds okay? Well, that’s not all...
The first century Christian lived under Roman rule. By law, a Roman soldier could ask anyone to carry his luggage a mile. Those soldiers were big boys; they could carry their own luggage, but Jesus told believers if they were asked, carry it two miles. He added, if someone wants your coat, give him your sweater too. The idea is don’t be concerned about your rights to the point that you can’t trust God to fill the need if someone else comes and takes what is yours. Jesus’ teaching is slightly more radical than giving a needy person a few dollars now and then.
My argument with the radio was the principle of the thing. A few cents worth of electricity is within our means, but those workers should have at least asked first. But they didn’t. They assumed. And I didn’t like it. And I got a zero on the test.
The Lord is generous though. He gave me a change to re-write. The roofers are still up there. The cord is still dangling over the edge. It wasn’t easy, but I went out and plugged it back in.