Engage

Waste not, want not

Rarely do I read wherever the Bible falls open, but the shrewd manager accused of wasting his master's possessions caught my eye. The word waste stood out.

Donald Miller, in his latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, suggests that you and I can waste our lives by not living a good story.

Rarely do I read wherever the Bible falls open, but the shrewd manager accused of wasting his master's possessions caught my eye. The word waste stood out.

Donald Miller, in his latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, suggests that you and I can waste our lives by not living a good story.

"If you aren't telling a good story," Miller says, "nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died … Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller."

So back to the day my Bible fell open to Luke 16, I kept reading up to the Triumphal Entry (19:28), noting throughout these chapters Jesus told stories that had a recurring theme-wealth, its use and misuse.

In these verses, wealth constitutes an issue of trust and honesty (16:10-12) and how people "use worldly wealth" (16:9) reveals values. Jesus said, "God knows your heart" (16:15). And why would God give more to those who waste his resources? In fact, these chapters reveal God's attitude as just the opposite. Startling.

But wealth is not simply a matter of money, nor is waste. Time, talent and opportunities represent resources given by the Master who expects a return on his investment. Not dealing in equivalents, the Master makes no apology for the distribution of wealth or talent (19:11-27).

In Luke's gospel, assets misused reveal self-indulgence, self-deception as well as blindness to the plight of others (The Rich Man and Lazarus, 16:19-31; Zaccheus, 19:1-10). Whether considering the Rich Ruler (18:18-30) who trusted his wealth, or the man who was too afraid to do anything with his talent (19:21), which this man had to be reminded, the Master had given him to use in the first place-each person described had waste issues. And so do I.

Wasted time. Wasted opportunities. Wasted money. Wasted lives.

While reading letters from my mother written throughout the last 20 years of her life, her story for all its abounding as well as suffering need was characterized by, "Waste not, want not."  A forgotten aphorism in an affluent economy based on consumption and its conjoined waste sounds muted today in a Great Society whose hearers have auditory fatigue.

"I've wondered" Donald Miller said, which makes me wonder too, "if one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don't want the responsibility inherent in the acknowledgement. We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage. And if life isn't remarkable, then we don't have to do any of that; we can be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants."

Like some of the people in the stories of responsibility and accountability Luke recorded, we can just waste away.

0