His words caught me off guard. I am not sure if it was the inflection in his voice or his honest surprise at such decadent wealth, but nonetheless, it caught me. I can still see his face contorted by the quandary before him, "You have two watches?!" In that split second of reactionary time, as soon as the simple Khmae sentence relayed its meaning to me, my American, collector mentality (you can never have enough for an unseen emergency) jumped up within me. As answer after answer exploded from my wounded conscience, vying for the chance to be blurted back, I knew that the still small voice was also whispering. Amidst the clamor of responses, its clarity was deafening. He was right: I had two watches. His temporary surprise became my ongoing uneasiness.
Living in Cambodia after September 11, 2001, sent to love, serve and even share the gospel of Jesus Christ in a fully Muslim community, surrounded by abject poverty, I had two watches. What did he mean? Ahmad knew my life and my teachings as best as I could explain them at the time. He visited daily to see my family and the way that we lived our lives devoted to God. Together we had traveled to places and he heard me exclaim the need for a heart change in the lives of Christians and Muslims alike. He knew that my ultimate goal in life was to be fully submitted to my God and King. He had heard me SAY all the right things.
How dare he ask that question about two watches? He didn't know how much we had given up to come here, all that we had turned our backs on to be in his village. Did he realize the income we walked away from? [My self was rising.] He hadn't heard the cries of my daughter before we left the USA as someone purchased her little used, plastic kitchen set and tossed it in their trunk like it was nothing of value. How could he imply that we had too much?
Yet, that honest question still haunted me.
Maybe Ahmad just wanted my watch because he didn't have one? Ah yes, my mind began to grasp at the chance of sidestepping conviction with the tried and true trick of comparative judgment. That's it! Was I to tell him about coveting? Oh yes! Defend my right for owning two watches. Easy enough, a guy needs to have one for daily use and then another for the occasional social event that "demands" more than a functional Casio to fit in. Right? Here was a teachable moment to strike deep at the heart and expose that covetousness cancer lurking there. Can you feel the Spirit leading my thoughts, as the missionary sent to teach Ahmad, giving me the discernment to help my brother from this sin? NO. That was not the sin needing to be unearthed.
Mine went deeper.
The conviction I felt was striking at the heart of my American culture of "stuff." How much is enough? What do I really "need?" Should the claims of the Bible make any impact on my spending and lifestyle? Now, I realize that lifestyle and wealth are definitely relative to your surroundings. But, the question and conviction remains. If I claim to be part of God's end time people, I must be willing to ask it and test my own culture by Scripture. There should be telltale results in our lives and habits.
John the Baptist said if you had two coats and you meet a brother that has none, give him yours. Whoa! Do we think that was merely figurative and the principle being expressed is therefore conveniently locked into the time and space of his culture? Could it actually be meant to apply to our shoes, coats, clothes, food, or multiple television sets cluttering our homes!? The line between need and want gets blurred doesn't it?
Scripture is full of counsel (commands) referencing how we should live our faith with our pocketbook, as we have studied this quarter. Have we forgotten that God wants our convictions to be evident in our lifestyle or have we merely relegated religion to a once or twice a week hobby in the corner of our lives? Stewardship is inclusive of every area of our existence. As the chariot wheel illustrated a few weeks ago in our studies stewardship is where the "rubber" meets the road. All of our claims of faith and end time living are eventually validated or invalidated by our visible life choices.
Have we truly been changed by the realization that in Christ we have received all things necessary for Godly living (2 Peter 1:1-4)? In Christ we are now joint heirs with Him in the heavenly places (see Ephesians 2), are we living life that way? Has our faith in a loving and compassionate God led us into a settled rest in Him, whether in our worship or our lifestyle (Matt. 6:19-34)? Are we walking this world as children of God, now (1 John 3:1, Rom. 8:12-22)? Have we entered into a life of faith through Christ that literally begins the life eternal, here? Please consider reading chapter 34, the Invitation, in Desire of Ages and be amazed at the life we are invited to. What exceedingly precious promises and realities are available to us! By faith we can live as ambassadors of heaven stewarding the goodness and grace of God for this world.
Years ago, I shared a thought with a friend that apparently touched her quite deeply; deeply enough that she wrote it in her Bible. I simply said, "I am completely His, not because of me but because of who He is. We are His executors (stewards in our context here) parceling out the Kingdom of God to the world, living it out and sharing heaven's blessings with the world around us." I completely believe that and I believe that has been the point of these studies.
This quarter has revealed the bigger picture of being the stewards of God's wealth and gifts to humanity. We have now come full circle with the focus being on the results we will experience as we carry God's riches, even the intangible ones like the gospel, into the world to bless them. We are invited into a life of rest, godliness, contentment, and a peace that passes all understanding as we allow God's Spirit to bring us into this amazing life of trusting God in all things. We have all heard, repeatedly that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6), yet we also know that finding people with such true wealth is quite rare. Hypocrisy and show seem to mark most lives and erode them from the inside out. Yet we are called to a life so much better. Our studies have ranged from our finances to our health and abilities, even to the whole way we see the world and our part in it. As we close this quarter consider the personal implications before us.
Ahmad's words continue to call to me, to us. If I claim to be working with Muslims as a person of the Book, they better be able to see evidence of the Book transforming me. Muslims expect Islam to be all or none – isn't that what Scripture teaches too? If we claim to believe that Jesus is coming soon and that in Him we have passed from death to life; then the world needs to see a change in our living and thinking. This salvation we hold dear needs to be worked out into every aspect of our lives. This is the ongoing life of stewardship, the result of a life hid in Christ.
Later that day in Cambodia still talking to Ahmad, my conscience re-captured my heart. I then had the joy of teaching my friend how to read a nice, non digital, $30 Dakota Factory watch with a second hand. Watching him walk with a new spring in his step glancing repeatedly to his wrist to check how many seconds had elapsed I imagine he left thinking he had just received a great gift. But, in reality, if he could have heard the lessons that God was giving me, he would have known that I would remember this day far longer than that watch would run. Because that was the day that I became a one watch man.
By the grace of God and a lot of other powerful lessons of learning to be content in God's guidance and provision, I am still a one watch manparceling out the gifts of heaven to the world around me. Join me in a never ending, glorious life!