“A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:38
The last few weeks, I have been itinerantly cleaning the home of a friend’s elderly relative, while that relative is in the hospital. This is the chance of the lifetime to actually get the place clean, my friend exults. The elderly relative is determined and self-sufficient (good points) to the unfortunate point that she refuses assistance or help, and the place is getting run down beyond the point of her being able to handle it. Such a fine line there is between commendable determination and pride.
Speaking of pride, the elderly relative takes much of it in her frugality, and she is where she is, she repeatedly says, because she’s not a spendthrift.
Be that as it may, it clearly becomes obvious to anyone attempting to clean her house that the reason this has become so difficult is because the broom, which looks like what a witch would ride, consists of a few remaining determined straws; the wash rags have more holes than material; the vacuum’s belt broke years ago; the plastic bucket is cracked at the bottom; and there are absolutely no cleaning materials other than dish washing soap.
And while elbow grease is a great resource, when those elbows get into their later 90s, they don’t work as efficiently as they used to.
Frugal, Not Cheap
I understand frugality. As the mother of four children, managing a single moderate income, I learned from daily experience how to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. But I also recognized the necessity of buying — if it couldn’t be found or made — the right tool for the right job. Expecting someone to create a professional product or put forth a top performance from cobbled together resources is unreasonable. (While The Little House on the Prairie stories are engaging and fun, they tell stories first, and relate facts second.)
Frugality, when it is pushed to its extreme, becomes cheapness, and cheapness — which we find in the slavish obedience to the mantra, “Never pay retail!”, or the constant bargaining down (of the small, independent business owner, not the mega corporations) on price, or the paying of teen babysitters at the church half as much as an adult would make (because kids are “learning to give”), or the insistence that others within our responsibility circles make do on ridiculously, severely limited resources when we have the ability to provide the means they need — does not, in any fashion, represent “good stewardship.”
And yet this form of “good stewardship” is frequently practiced and praised among Christians as pleasing to God. It’s a trap.
Good Stewardship Is “Good”
Years ago, when my husband the Norwegian Artist worked as a graphic designer for a small firm that depended heavily upon religious clients, two sweet little, fluffy white, cold-blooded women repeatedly showed up with jobs “for the church,” strongly expecting that, because the firm owner was Christian, he should cut them a very, very good deal. And while they were unfortunately not alone, among the many religious clients, in this expectation, the contrast of their syrupy exterior with the granite interior was especially memorable.
The better the deal and the deeper the cut, however, the less the firm owner — and his employees — took home, and while the little old ladies expected a top quality product, they were adamant that it be at a low quantity price. One could tell that they took great pride in this good stewardship, along with their regular tithing to the church (which they frequently mentioned as being an obligation of all Christians), and their cheery greetings “in the name of Jesus.”
For some reason, it fell a little flat to my ears.
It is important to remember that, when we talk about good stewardship, it is not to be achieved on the backs of, or by the sacrifices of, others. Also notable is that good stewardship is not something in which we take pride, denoting a deeper faith in Christ.
Good stewards manage their money and resources well, and as Christians, the money and resources we have been given are a means to bless others — all sorts of others. What measure are we using?
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I encourage Christians to live our Christianity, as opposed to studying it to death in a weekly small group. If you like what you read, please pass it on through the social media buttons at the bottom of the article.
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