I have a problem…I am wasteful. No big deal, right? I mean in the scope of sins we can commit, wasting must be near the bottom. But, it is there, over and over again, in the Bible.
The first thing that comes to mind is the story of the manna. In case you don’t recall the story in Exodus 16, here’s what happened: The Children of Israel had been delivered from their Egyptian task masters by a miraculous parting of the Red Sea (chapter 14). They were elated and they expressed their joy to God by composing a song about how great His deliverance was and how the Almighty would bring them into the Promised Land (chapter 15). Their satisfaction with their delivering Savior didn’t last long. They hadn’t been on their journey very long before they angrily complained about being hungry. They went so far as to say that they should have never left their servitude because it was better back in Egypt. Instead of punishing these insolent people, God graciously provided special small, round pieces of bread, called manna. The people were to go out of their tents and gather it every morning. The one stipulation was that they were to take a specific amount. This guaranteed that they would have enough to eat, but not more than they could consume. Of course, some tested God. They took more than they needed and ended up leaving it overnight. In the morning, their wasteful bread attracted worms and it stank.
I’ve never seen manna. However, I have seen moldy bread, I have had food breed worms, and I have smelled the awful odor of rotten food. Why? Most of the time it is because I have gathered more than was needed. I love buying food at warehouse stores. I enjoy having a full pantry and an overflowing storage shelf of food. I love deals, which many times prompts me to buy unnecessary items. Sometimes I’ve even found out later that the reason they were “deals” was because they’d already expired or had an expiration date that was so soon that I couldn’t possibly use them before then. How many bags of garbage I’ve had throughout the years, all because I took more than I could eat or serve to others. There are times when I actually buy items with an idea in mind of how I’m going to be using them. The trouble is that I don’t have time just when I get home, I put them to the side, and then I forget about them. Other times, I honestly don’t have a clue what I’m going to use an item for. It just was a good deal. I’ll probably use it….
What was God’s reaction to the wasteful Israelites? Although God didn’t address the situation right after the Children of Israel transgressed, we do read that “Moses was wroth with them” (vs. 20). I suspect that Moses was just echoing God’s emotions. Moses had warned them not to leave anything until the morning. They did just what he told them not to do. Moses was God’s representative and the people showed their non-nonchalance for God’s Word by ignoring what Moses told them.
I don’t have to look very far into my life to find that food excess is not the only way I’m wasteful. I enjoy crafts. It is fun to create things for my use and for other people. But one look at my craft closet and you will easily be able to recognize another wasteful area. The trouble is that I go into things all the way. I buy all the supplies to make something and every variation imaginable. I explore my latest passion for a little while. Maybe I even make some gifts from these craft supplies to give to others. Sounds good, right? The trouble comes in the fact that I abandon one craft for another. Then the process starts up all over again. Here are some things that I’ve done and then largely left behind: yarn crafts, card making, photo art, fleece creations, and the list goes on. The funny thing is that you might assume that I am artistic from looking at this list. I am not (emphatically). In fact, many times the reason I leave a craft behind to gather dust is because I can never produce what I’d imagined the outcome to be. With a huff, I stash the items in the ever-filling closet, and then look for my next project, which prompts me to buy more stuff, and the cycle begins again.
My closet is stuffed. In an attempt to organize it a few years ago, I bought some large wooden hangers. The dimension of these hangers meant I could put less in my closet. I reluctantly purged a good number of clothes so that everything would fit. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I saw a great deal on tank tops. The special price included a large number of colors for a reasonable price. Even though I didn’t really have a place to put them, I bought them because they looked like a deal I couldn’t pass up. Now here’s the kicker: I don’t even like tank tops! I will very occasionally wear one under a low cut or see-through top, but I basically stick to white or black in these cases.
It’s not just tank tops that have coaxed my credit card out of it’s slot. I have a ton of beret-style hats. They were a good price. I wasn’t sure what would match what was in my wardrobe. I bought every color I liked. Some still have the tags on five plus years later. I might still wear them…or maybe not. It’s also the compression stockings I bought because I thought they’d help me in some unknown way. Well, they helped me know where my kneecaps were with every step. I wore them one part of one day. Maybe an hour. They were then removed never to be put on again.
I could go on and on. The examples I’ve given are just the tip of the iceberg of my wasteful living. The question is what I should be doing about it. Following are the steps I’ve come up with for dealing with this problem that has become a lifestyle:
- Think long and hard before I purchase something. Do I really need this? Will I use it? Could the money be better used for something or someone else?
- Remember that a deal is not a deal if it is not used.
- Keep an account of what is spent. It is not as easy to let money slip through my fingers unnoticed if I have to write it down in black and white.
- Go through my pantry/storage goods. Make a plan once or twice a week to use up older items in recipes.
- Rotate foods in my storage areas so that the old is used before the new.
- Sort through the items in my overflowing craft closet(s). Can I use the items I have in new ways?
- Purge both my craft and clothing closets. Throw out anything that is in disrepair or is too old to be of value. Donate anything I am not planning on using again (be honest) so that others can be blessed through them and they aren’t just “breeding worms”.
Can you add any suggestions to my list? Feel free to comment and identify your biggest “worm breeder”. How can you rectify this area of your life?
He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster. Proverbs 18:9
So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up, and went into the city… Ruth 2:17, 18a
All of this reminds me of a poem that I memorized as a child. It points out that some day I may live in need and regret my wasteful past:
‘Tis wilful waste brings woeful want,
And I may live to say,
Oh, how I wish I had the crust
That once I threw away!
One more thing. What about my life as a whole? God has made each of us with a purpose in mind. He doesn’t purchase something only to lay it aside and let it breed worms. God is no waster. God paid a great price for each of His own (through His Son’s death). His intention is to use us for eternal purposes, but He won’t force us into use. We can just sit in our tent and breed worms or we can bow to His will.
Note: feature image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/treegrow/