The Appearance of the Unwasted Life, Part 1

Desiring God 2008 Regional Conference | San Luis Obispo

What does it look like, the unwasted life? If the gospel is the solution to conquer my objective damnable position under the just wrath of a holy God by rescuing me, so that it can be said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and he has begun in sovereign grace and sanctification to transform this old blind, dead, man-loving, God-belittling heart into a God-loving, man-humbling, Christ-cherishing heart, what does it look like? Because the whole goal of life, the whole meaning of the life that counts is to display the worth of Jesus Christ for others to see and cherish. That’s why the universe exists. It’s so that we might live in order to demonstrate by the way we live that Jesus is more precious than life.

“The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life” (Psalm 63:3), which means there must be a way to live that looks like that rather than looking like you have the same value structure that everybody else has.

Love and the Unwasted Life

Here are a few texts to put that in biblical context and then we’ll go through as many of these 20 focuses on not wasting your life as we can manage. The biblical words I think of fleshing out how you make God look good, like a telescope, not a microscope — you’re not using makeup to make him look good because he doesn’t need makeup; he needs windows — is love for people.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).

Now faith, in my understanding, is that awakened sight of the glory of Christ in the gospel, the embracing of him as Savior, Lord, and supreme treasure of our lives. Faith that is satisfied in him spills over into other people and that spilling over is called love. All that I have found in him I want others to find in him. Just as my treasuring him shows him to be valuable, I want other people through my treasuring of him to experience his value so that their hearts are changed by the gospel and they begin to treasure him the way I have begun to treasure him. And so, this bending outward, this horizontalization of my vertical delights in God is called love.

Grace Spilling Over

Let me give you one text. I was going to give you two, but I’ll just give you one. Let’s go, if you have a Bible, to 2 Corinthians 8. Paul is raising money for the poor in Jerusalem and he’s motivating the Corinthians with the way that the Macedonians responded to this appeal and how he does it is most remarkable and is a beautiful picture of how they love people in this context. This is 2 Corinthians 8:1:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia . . .

Macedonia is Northern Greece and he’s writing to Corinthians who were in Southern Greece and the first thing he wanted the Corinthians to know was what God did by sovereign grace up in Philippi, Thessalonica, and these little towns to the north.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia . . . (2 Corinthians 8:1).

Now, what did that grace do? Grace is powerful. Grace is not just God’s leniency and his non-judgment. Grace is power moving into fallen lives and fixing them powerfully, overcoming all their resistance, saving them, and transforming them. Now, what did it look like in Macedonia?

For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord (2 Corinthians 8:2–3).

He didn’t have to rustle them like a horse or a mule to do this. They loved being generous. It was free. Now, notice several things. Number one, he traces it all back to the grace of God. The grace of God came down on the Macedonians. The first effect on them was abundant joy. Do you see that in the middle of 2 Corinthians 8:2? He says, “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy . . .” Joy in what? Circumstances? They have two counts against them here. Number one, they are in a severe test of affliction. These people are not having a better life because they became Christians. It’s going worse for them. I don’t believe in the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. Things go worse for you when you’re a Christian, not better.

“Those who would live a godly life will be persecuted” (1 Timothy 3:12). If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24). That’s an instrument of execution. “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). It goes on and on and the promise is that it’s going bad for you as a Christian. I’m not selling anything here. I’m just calling you to a life that counts, not an easy life. So, circumstance number one, which shows me that this overwhelming joy was not in circumstance, is that there was affliction.

Number two, their extreme poverty overflowed. So they not only are probably being persecuted, whatever these afflictions are that have risen because they became a Christian, but they are not being made prosperous. It didn’t fix their business. Their stock market shares didn’t go up when they became Christians. They were still struggling financially. But these people are weird. Don’t you want to be like these people? I love these people. I’m not very much like these people. If my finances are struggling and people are mad at me, the word that people would usually use to describe me is not “abundance of joy,” but that’s what they experienced.

A Wealth of Generosity

So, what’s wrong with us? This is where we go when we’re saved. Let’s read it again now:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia . . . (2 Corinthians 8:1).

There’s the key. That’s what we have to feel. That’s what we have to experience. We have to know, “He’s being gracious to me, he’s loving me, he’s forgiven me, he’s taken away my condemnation, he’s given me deliverance from hell, he’s taken away all my guilt, and he has imputed a righteousness to me. How can I not rejoice?” They had come to see God in the gospel. The circumstances didn’t change for the better, they got worse. They got worse and they were overflowing with joy.

Now question, what did it look like? Laughter? It doesn’t say so. Maybe playing more cheerfully with your kids at night even though the stock market hasn’t gone up, but you can be there now for your kids emotionally, not in Wall Street, because he has that taken care of? They could think, “I’ve got grace flowing around me like an ocean, I’m here for you tonight.” Maybe, though it doesn’t say that either. That is one of the effects. What it says is that “their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” These people have fallen out of love with money because it says they pleaded for a second offering to be taken. Isn’t that what it says?

For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints . . . (2 Corinthians 8:3–4).

Why do you need to beg Paul? That’s why he’s there. It must have been a second offering. These are strange people. They’re saying, “Please, Paul. I know you think we’ve given all we should. Please let us give some more to the poor.” They’re weird. You love your stuff and we love our stuff. We have to be set free. California is not the least interested in your Christian prosperity, not one bit. Nobody will be saved by seeing you prosper, nobody. A lot of people have become Christian idolaters by seeing you prosper. They think, “Oh, you’re going to be Christian, and you get rich, get a better house, get a better car, and get a better job? I’ll become a Christian.” That’s not conversion.

A Fake Substitute for the Gospel

Can’t you see? I hate the prosperity gospel. I just got a note from Baker Publishing House. I did my missions book with them and I got a note, I’m so happy about this and they said, “We want to do a new edition and we should add a chapter on the prosperity gospel.” And I wrote to them and said, “Yes!” We’re marketing this thing to Africa and Asia. Of course we go there on a private jet, gather about 80,000 people in a stadium, knock a few over with breath, pray over a few, and leave with our satchels filled. Are they being saved or are they falling in love with Western lifestyles? Oh, California, Minnesota, we’ve got so far to go.

Do you know what’s going to make Jesus look valuable? It’s when because of how precious he is to you, you sacrifice for the good of others, so that it looks to them like you must have treasure somewhere else than in your stuff. That’s the only way. It’s going to look like they should ask you a question. What is the reason for the hope that is in you? Has anybody ever asked you 1 Peter 3:15? The reason they don’t ask is because you look like you’re hoping in all the stuff they hope in. I’m speaking to myself.

This is serious. How are you going to live a lifestyle in America — West Virginia, Minneapolis, Central California — that to the world doesn’t look like a carbon copy of what they value? I don’t have all the answers there. I’m just pleading, God do something here. Do something here because the world’s not impressed with prosperous Christians, they’re just not. They think, “Do you want to do your religious things, sure. I find it very boring. You can do that because I see no difference in your life at all.” And we think keeping the 10 Commandments impresses anybody. Who could care less whether you keep the 10 Commandments. They don’t care whether you commit adultery. As long as you don’t steal from them, don’t kill them, not doing these things, they do that. They’ve done pretty with the 10 Commandments, not the first one and the last one, but they don’t care about that.

It’s not impressive to be a good law keeper. What’s impressive to people is sacrifice because sacrifice in the cause of love looks like you have a treasure different from the world.

How to Let Your Light Shine

Here’s one more text and then we’re launching into these 20. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, “Let your lights so shine before men that then they see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.” So, there it is, right? That’s what we want for our lives, we want to live that way, let your light shine before men so that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Now, there’s something mysterious going on there because a lot of people see good deeds and do not give glory to God. My city is filled with liberal pastors and liberal churches who do good deeds all day long and do not believe in the Bible, they do not believe in the substitutionary atonement, and they do not believe you need to believe in Jesus to be saved. I know these guys. They’re full of good deeds. That’s what church means. Do you know why? Because it impresses the culture, which is worlds apart from Matthew 5:16 because God’s not getting glory.

What’s wrong? What’s the deal? Here’s the deal, when it says let your light shine, what do you think that means? Is that just equivalent to deeds? You do the deed? You stop and you help somebody change their tire or you go over and you help somebody clean the house because she’s 10 months pregnant? Here’s what I think let your light shine means, if you just contextually read backward, you can see it. That’s Matthew 5:16 where we started, but we’re going back to verse 12 and then we’re going forward:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:11–16).

Now, in that train of thought, what’s the light and the salt? I think the light and the salt are not just the deeds, but the way the heart is working when deeds are being done, mainly rejoicing in that day and being glad because your reward in heaven is great when you are being persecuted. I’ll tell you what shines in the world. You’re being beat up by circumstances — disease, job situation, people who don’t understand you, don’t care about you, and don’t like you, or you’re being beat up in a marriage, beat up by kids who are walking away from Jesus, beat up in a church where people don’t trust you anymore — and because you see the reward, who is Jesus, and the joy set before you, you don’t murmur. You don’t grumble, you don’t criticize, and do vengeance; you rejoice. Now when people see that, it’s bright and salty.

They think, “What’s that? I’ve never seen that before.” They’ve seen people happy with prosperity. The devil is happy when he’s prosperous, but the devil is not happy when he’s sacrificing because he’s being beaten up and his reward in heaven is so great that he keeps rejoicing in God and has some resources to spill over on the people he loves. When you’re surrounded by nothing but trouble, that’s a miracle that I call salt and a miracle that I call light. When out of that you do some good deeds people say, “God must be real to this person because everything I see around them would incline me to get out of here, out of this marriage, out of this church, out of this business, out of this relationship, out of this situation. But that person is faithful, gentle, kind, meek, long-suffering, patient and happy even when the tears are rolling down his face.”

Paul uses that strange phrase, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” That’s my life as a pastor, sorrowful yet always rejoicing. There’s never a day in my pastoral life I’m not sad, ever. That’s how many people we’ve got. Somebody’s always broken, somebody’s always in the hospital, some marriage is always in trouble, some kid is always breaking his parents’ hearts, and some two saints are always niggling at each other, always. There’s never a day when you’re not sad and rejoicing in it because you’ve got a great reward and he’s working it all together for your good. So, the key to living an unwasted life, a life that counts is doing the kinds of deeds — and oh, there are 10,000 of them — that will flow from a heart embattled by difficulties and resting in the supreme value of Jesus Christ, our great reward.

Encouragements for an Unwasted Life

Now, 20 things I don’t want you to waste your life being and we’ll see how many we can do. I don’t think we’ll do them all. We’ll just start. I put them in an order that some of my favorite ones are up front and I don’t know whether I can leave out the ones at the end. I promise you I’ll read them all anyway.

The unwasted life is so treasuring Christ that he satisfies the soul, so that it spills over unto others and he is shown to be more valuable than life itself. That’s why we exist, to show the supreme value of Christ in the universe. Moving from there, through now, how can I become that kind of person? Answer the gospel, and I just want to underline something we prayed about back in the green room just a few minutes ago. One of the guys prayed for you, “Don’t let them hear these 20 things as a burden.” It can be that way, but everything I just said in the last hour is intended to deliver you from hearing it that way because the gospel means this, that by simple, childlike trusting, receiving Christ and being united to him by faith, all that he is for you, he is for you in that union, not your performance.

It’s the union that enables what I’m about to talk about, not the other way around. The gospel doesn’t say, “Don’t waste your life in these areas and he will love you.” The gospel says, “Because he has loved you, forgiven you, justified you, reconciled you, adopted you, now you cannot waste your life in these things.” And so, hear a gospel here. Paul said, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened” (1 Corinthians 5:7). That’s the gospel way of life. The way I preach it to myself is that I can never get victory over any sin except a forgiven sin. That’s the order. If I say, “I’ve got to get some victory over this, so that it will be forgiven,” I don’t know the gospel, I don’t know Christ.

1. Don’t Waste Your Suffering.

I may have said enough about that already. Romans 5:2–4 says:

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . .

When suffering is ordained for you, which it will be if it’s not already, we don’t waste it by rejoicing in it because of the hope it is working in us. Tribulation works patience and patience works approvedness, and approvedness works hope, and therefore we rejoice. We have to have a huge confidence in the sovereign God to respond like that to suffering.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church . . . (Colossians 1:24).

What Paul means there is, “When I suffer as an apostle, I am suffering to extend the cross in my suffering and in my language, in my proclamation, so that those for whom Christ died will see how much he loves them in my willingness to suffer to reach them.” There is story after story in missions I could tell you about this. Missionaries must suffer. It’s part of the deal, it’s part of the package because we serve a crucified Savior and those who never see him will see his pain in our pain, and what he endured in coming into the world to save sinners we endure by going to Afghanistan, Indonesia, China, North Korea, and people see the sufferings and know the Savior.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

So we don’t waste our age, we don’t waste our eyes going bad, and my ears. My wife thinks I have a hearing problem. I don’t know why she thinks I have a hearing problem. She’s not speaking up these days. You don’t waste that.

2. Don’t Waste Global Calamities

There will be more and they will hit far closer home. You think San Luis Obispo is out of the way, you’re safe, you’re not.

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds (Revelation 16:8–11).

They wasted their pain. They wasted their calamity. Your calamities are meant to drive you to God. Pastors, you must speak of this when it comes. The radio stations will call you, the people will call you, and they will say, “What is the meaning of this bridge collapsing? What is the meaning of these towers falling? What is the meaning of these students shooting each other? What is the meaning of my son’s legs being blown off in Iraq?” And you better not wimp out on them.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:18–19).

This is the global meaning of calamity, AIDS, malaria, and 3,000 people a day dying of something that my wife with a little pill as she heads to Africa can overcome in a minute.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:20–24).

That means that when the calamity comes we will be swept away as well. There are no guarantees that Christians will be blown up, get disease, be mowed down by the terrorists — no guarantee.

What we know about these things is that the creation is groaning because God sentenced the creation to groaning. He subjected the creation to futility, not of its own will, but by the will of him who subjected it in hope. What hope? It’s the hope that this is like a woman in labor. The upheavals of tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanoes and tornadoes and hurricanes and Katrinas are birth pangs. That’s the way the Bible talks about them. In the meantime, what God has done is to say to the world nobody in this world is emotionally distraught at the moral outrage of their sin, but they are distraught about the pain of suffering that comes when 300,000 people are swept away in Bangladesh by a flood. They’re angry about that, but not about their sin. And the point of calamity is a parable about the moral outrage of sin.

Leading People to Repentance

Have you ever asked, if Adam and Eve sinned morally with choices that were evil, why is it that their bodies paid the price? Globalize that. If the sin of mankind is the problem and sin is a heart that prefers things over God, why is flesh paying the price? Why disease? Why death? The answer is that it is a parable, symbol, and pointer. We feel flesh consequences but we don’t give a rip about spiritual consequences. If God’s going to get at us, he’ll get at us through our skin. He’s getting it at the world big time and what do they do? They did not repent of their deeds. Here’s a positive one from Revelation 11:13:

And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

They didn’t waste it, they didn’t waste the calamity. Help Central California not waste the next calamity by leading them in repentance. NPR called me on the phone the day after that tsunami and they said, “Give us a Baptist perspective.” I said, “I don’t know what the Baptist perspective is, but I’ll give you a biblical perspective. When the Tower of Siloam fell on 18 people and then Pilate slaughtered worshipers in Jerusalem (I didn’t shout into the phone) people called Jesus on the phone from NPR and said, “What was the point of this suffering?” He said, “If you don’t repent you will likewise perish.” You should repent. That’s the point of the tsunami. Repent, world, repent or you’ll all be swept away like this. Don’t waste it. It’s all meant to point to God’s willingness to take us and rescue us from the deluge.

3. Don’t Waste Your Money

You have money as a steward, not as an owner. You don’t own anything, nothing, not even your bodies. God owns you. You are a steward. Get all ownership, at least in your relationship with God, not man, out of your head. You don’t own anything. You are a manager. You’re a broker, which means that this money that you have is wasted when it doesn’t achieve the purposes of its owner, which is God. What’s his purpose? His purpose is that you use money in such a way that it will be plain that his Son is more valuable than money. That’s why you have money.

You have money so that the way you use it will show that Jesus is more valuable than money. How do you do that? That’s the challenge of your life in America. Do you think that way? What you buy, what you support, will it show that? Can you make a purchase in such a way that it will show you value Jesus more than this thing you’re buying? That’s not easy and that is why we have money. Jesus talks about money more than he talks about heaven, hell, sex, or any other sin. Only the kingdom of God gets more attention than money. Let me just read you a slew of texts.

A Turn in Redemptive History

When Jesus came into the world, a turn in redemptive history happened. In the Old Testament, it was by and large a “come see” religion. We build a magnificent temple, so that from all the ends of the earth, people will come and say, “Wow, you must have a great God.” That is over. Christianity is a “go and tell” religion and there is no geographic center anywhere on the planet. Nobody’s coming to Christianity in a place, they’re coming to Christianity in a person and he is accessible everywhere on the planet or in space.

Therefore, our whole concept of money changes because if you have a “come see” mentality, you build the biggest monument you can for people to come see. But if you have a go tell mentality, you strip down to a wartime lifestyle to maximize money for those missionaries. At any cost, we will send hundreds and hundreds of thousands of our sons and daughters, and if they never come home we will say, “That was a life well spent and my money to keep them there was the greatest investment I ever made.”

So when you read about money in the bible, there is this relentless New Testament drive towards wartime simplicity. I use the phrase “wartime simplicity” rather than just simplicity because if you only think simplicity, like back in the 1970s and 1980s when I was hearing people talk about simplicity — go to Idaho and grow potatoes and carrots and don’t put any chemicals on them and be simple. That’s saving nobody except a little teeny piece of the planet while people drop off the edge of eternity into hell. Simplicity by itself it’s neither here nor there. The question is, is it wartime simplicity?

In the Second World War, you didn’t throw bobby pins away and if you lost one during a basketball game everybody got down until they found it, put it back in the hair and got on with the game because metal was for the cause. The Queen Mary was transformed into a troop carrier and where once there had been one bunk and 10 place settings and luxury everywhere, now there were 10 bunks stacked on top of each other and tin plates because we got a war to win overseas and everybody is sacrificing.

The lifestyles change. You don’t use your car the same way, things are being rationed. That’s the mentality we should have, and it’s totally countercultural in America. Put a cap on your lifestyle or it will take you over. How would you do that if you were writing 30 books with royalties? How would you do that? One way, my way, is that you sign away the royalties from the get-go on every book and create a foundation to accomplish goals that magnify Jesus. I get zero royalties for one simple reason, I’m scared of them because the Bible says it is hard for a rich man to get in the kingdom of heaven and I want to go to heaven more than I want to be rich 10,000 times. I hate the desire to be rich that creeps up in my heart. I hear the church talking about a three or four percent raise and I think “Oh, what would that mean?” It means you give more, that’s what it means. If you have a cap set, then it doesn’t matter. I have the house I need. I don’t need another house.

This bathroom does not need to be remodeled for another decade or three. It has a toilet. It has a sink. Believe it or not, hot water comes out when you turn the switch, and so does the shower and there’s a wooden case that we got when we got married. It still has drawers and they go in and out just fine. This is good enough. I just plead with you, watch out for your reading of airplane magazines and every other kind of magazine there is on the planet, except maybe a few radical, crazy lifestyle issue magazines that might help you.

Freedom from the Love of Money

Oh that you would be free from the love of money.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–6).

I said I was going to read a few of these:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20).

They are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life . . . (Luke 8:14).

The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head (Luke 9:58).

A person’s life does not consist in his possessions (Luke 12:15).

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19–20).

That means, “Use your money to make your reward greater in heaven,” which means to give it away to causes that magnify Jesus.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:25).

Seek his kingdom and all these will be added to you (Luke 12:31).

Sell your possessions, give alms, provide yourselves with purses in heaven (Luke 12:33).

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33).

You have to renounce it all, renounce it all. You say, “It’s all yours, I’m done. Anything you want, it’s yours.”

And no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own (Acts 4:32).

Paul describes his ministry:

As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything (2 Corinthians 6:9–10).

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need (Ephesians 4:28).

That’s the reason you work. You work to have to give to him who is in need. Of course, you’ve got to keep a house over your head and you probably need a car. You probably need a computer. That’s what I mean about wartime lifestyle. You have to have a B-52. A B-52 costs $100 million. You can’t win this war without a B-52, so you’re going to buy it. That’s war, that’s not ministry, that’s war. It’s an analogy.

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (1 Timothy 6:7–9).

It goes on and on and on. I have a whole page, but I’ll stop. So don’t waste your money. Use it in a way that makes Christ look more valuable than money.

4. Don’t Waste Your Robbery

I can’t help but read this because my son put it on the blog yesterday and it came from NPR. I’m going to read you the news thing:

Julio Diaz has a daily routine every night. The 32-year old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early just so he can eat at his favorite diner. One night last month, as Diaz stepped off the Number 6 Train onto the newly empty platform things took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached him, pulled out a knife, and said, “I want your money.” So he just gave him his wallet and told him, “Here you go.”

As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to go robbing people for the rest of the night, you might want to take my coat to keep you warm.” The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, like, “What’s going on here?” Diaz said that the young man asked him, “Why are you doing this?” Diaz replied, “If you’re going to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. All I wanted to do was to get dinner and if you really want to join me, hey, you’re more than welcome. I just felt maybe you might really need help.”

Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat at a booth. The manager came by, the dishwasher came by, the waitress came by, and Diaz said hi to all of them. The kid said, “Do you know everybody here? Do you own this place?” Diax said, “No, I eat here a lot.” The young man said, “But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.” Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught that you should be nice to everybody.” He said, “Yeah, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way.”

Diaz said, “You have my money and I can’t pay for this, so if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.” The teen didn’t even think about it. He returned the wallet. Diaz said, “I gave him $20 thinking it would help him, I don’t know.” Diaz said he asked for something in return, the teen’s knife. “He gave it to me.” After, when Diaz told his mother what had happened she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time you just give him your watch.”

Now, I do not know whether NPR edited Jesus out of this, but it couldn’t be clearer where that’s coming from. If someone takes your coat, give them your tunic as well. I would give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Even if he doesn’t know Christ, he’s living off Jesus’s fumes. Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t waste your robbery or the ripoff at the corner. What’s your plan for the people holding the signs that say, “Almost anything will help”? What’s your plan? Roll up the window and say, “Get a job!”

Is that helpful? Well, you probably think it is. Maybe you don’t, I don’t know. I’ve got a plan, my plan is that I take these little red books. I think we’ve given them away. I take a $1 bill, stick it in the red book, and I keep five of them in my glove compartment and I always open my window. I know I’m getting ripped off most of the time. I’m holding out one hope here. I give that book and I say, “Here’s a book, it’s about Jesus. I’m going to give you the book. I hope you read it. You can have the dollar, use it for something besides alcohol or drugs and in the name of Jesus, bless you brother.”

Thinking Through Our Lending to the Poor

I live in Phillips neighborhood. It’s a tough neighborhood. Vince came to the door. I’m just going to give you a failure story and a success story here just to show you how I try to think through not wasting my robberies or my ripoffs. I’ve taken Vince, who’s drunk most of the time, to get glasses, to get art supplies. I said, “If you would draw my house, I will pay you enough money to live on. You say you’re an artist, draw something.” I’m trying to find meaning for this guy. He comes on Good Friday absolutely stoned, unable to hardly stand up drunk. And he’s hungry. I said, “You make me so mad, Vince.” I went to get him something to eat.

I brought the bag, handed it to him, and he was sprawled out on my front porch with a two-liter bottle of vodka, about one-third empty. I dropped the food out and took the bottle and brought it in and shut the door. He came to in a minute or two and went absolutely ballistic. He said, “Where’s my bottle? Why’d you steal my bottle?” He was pounding in the middle of the night and my little girl went into hysterics. I said, “You don’t need to worry, he’s harmless.” I really think he is. He was drunk. I can take a drunk guy any time.

So, I said, “Lord, what am I supposed to do here? I just don’t know how to love this guy. I don’t know what love means here. I want to help him and I don’t know what it looks like.” Well, I didn’t want my front window broken and he started pounding the window and not just the door, so I went out my back door with the bottle and walked around to the front, put it on the bench and said, “Vince, here. Quit pounding on my window.” Then, he stumbled out and said, “Why’d you take my bottle?” I said, “Here’s your bottle. Don’t come back here until you’re sober.” He walked away. But that was Good Friday.

I’ll tell you I felt colossally bad about that. My wife thought I did exactly what I should do. She was a great defender, but I didn’t think so. So, I got down on my face that night. It was my heart I was concerned about. Practically, maybe I did the right thing, I don’t know, but my heart was mainly angry. It was mainly angry and I like my heart to be some angry and mainly loving. I just said to the Lord, “Forgive me for whatever in that was not of you, not helpful, not displaying the value of Jesus and if you would, give me another chance.” I stayed just to ask the Lord for another chance.

Now it’s Saturday. My little girl (a 12-year old) and I always do Pizza Hut. This is the same Pizza Hut thing, it’s the same day, same story I was telling you about. We go to Pizza Hut and when we’re done, we walk out and here comes Tony. I don’t know Tony, but that’s his name. I remember it. And he had his story. He said, “I’ve been on the streets and I’m hungry if you could help me out.” I said, “Okay, Talitha, why don’t you get in the car?” I didn’t have any money. I don’t carry money precisely for these reasons.

But, I did have it in the car. I have the $5 things and the books. I said, “I have no money, but I have a credit card. You want a pizza?” Sure, so I come in and we’re standing in line to get the pizza deal. What’s it cost, five bucks for a special personal pan with bread sticks and Coke? I will not feel this. I will not feel the loss of $5 out of my Visa account. While standing there I said to him, “Do you know what tomorrow is?” He said, “No.” I said, “Do you know what yesterday was?” He said, “No.” I said, “Do you know where this gift is coming from?” And he pointed up. I said, “No, he has a name. His name is Jesus and he died yesterday and he rose tomorrow for you.”

I had about three or four minutes to share the gospel with him. I just unloaded everything I could on this guy standing in Pizza Hut. He was not drunk. He was taking it all in and I paid for his pizza. I said, “It’s for this guy, not me.” I got the breadsticks, I handed it to him and said, “Tomorrow, he rose from the dead. He’s the one who gave this.” I went home and I felt wonderful, mainly because the Lord answered my prayer. He gave me another chance. Those two stories I just told you are failure and success. My stuff is not mine. I want to somehow use it for his great name.

We only have a few minutes, so let me give you the titles of these: (5) Don’t waste your compassion, (6) don’t waste your enemies, (7) don’t waste your aging, (8) don’t waste your retirement, (9) don’t waste your youth, (10) don’t waste your sexuality, (11) don’t waste your marriage, (12) don’t waste your singleness, (13) don’t waste your prayers, (14) don’t waste your prominence, (15) don’t waste your spiritual gifts, (16) don’t waste your racial diversity, (17) don’t waste your cultural diversity, (18) don’t waste the call to stay put, (19) don’t waste the call to move on, and (20) don’t waste your death.