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To Use, Not to Have
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“Being conservative is a sin,” stated the young guest preacher at our church. “It will kill us.”

I glanced around warily at my fellow parishioners. Didn’t this sleek California boy know his audience? We are Mid-westerners—the children and grandchildren of sturdy, practical homesteaders and farmers. Our forbearers would never have survived the howling winter blizzards or sun-scorched summers of blowing sand without the mottos of “Waste not, want not” and “Save for a rainy day.” Conservation was necessary for survival. No one squandered money, energy supplies or words.

“We must be generous—even lavish—in our responses to Jesus,” the speaker went on. “Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, not about rules or laws or buildings or organizations. Christianity is to use, not to have. An attitude of protectionism will lead us to institutionalism, which is soon followed by death.”

He then pointed out that the goal of Christians should be to “give it away, use it up, pour it out, so you have nothing left when Jesus Christ returns. Christianity can never be a calculated love. It must be a love of abandonment, of total immersion, of surrendering everything to Christ. It’s not about us, or what makes us happy. It’s about Jesus Christ and what He did and is doing for us.”

Given Away

As I mulled over these thoughts later in the day I realized how strong the “protect and preserve” attitudes of my ancestors were and how they have trickled down to me. Yes, some things must be protected and preserved, such as the love between husband and wife. But other things need to be used or given away, not saved up.

So today I am resolving to practice extravagance. When people knock on my door collecting cans for the local food pantry I’m not going to hand them one or two. I’m going to give them all they can carry. I’m going to go through our closets and give away extra coats and gloves and blankets because someone could be using them right now. I’m going to pick the flowers that bloom in the garden and give them away. I’m going to set the table with Grandma’s china every Sabbath. I’m going to use our best sheets and towels for everyday. I’m going to serve the special home canned applesauce whenever anybody wants it. And no matter what, I’m going to hug my teenagers every day.

Most of all I want to be lavish in my love to Jesus Christ. Of course I realize that any love I can give is only a reflection of God’s love already poured out to me. And that love is by far the most generous, the most giving, the most extravagant of all.

"We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

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By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2010 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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