He sat in the driver’s seat, all of 18 years old. It was time to make a final decision. He pulled out of that familiar driveway, leaving behind countless stains on the cracked concrete, each dried puddle of oil and coolant holding a memory of fixing another leak under the watchful eye of an experienced, willing father. While he had bought the car with his own money, he knew the repairs alone, covered by his dad, easily exceeded the purchase price. As he gripped the wheel and took a deep breath, his clothes smelled of fresh dryer sheets and looked clean and pressed—as they had at the beginning of every day for the last 6,570 days of his life. Two baskets sat in the back seat, stacked with nice clothes neatly folded by his mother. He loosened his belt slightly for the drive. She had insisted upon those grilled pork chops and garlic cheese potatoes, with two deliciously sweet ears of corn, sprinkled with salt and loaded with melted butter. That was his favorite meal. Or was it the pineapple chicken and rice? Maybe the special spaghetti she served every Sunday afternoon? That was the problem. Every meal she made seemed his favorite at the time. And she had done that every day.
As he backed out of the driveway and put his car into drive, he couldn’t help but look back at the porch. His mother wiped away tears with her apron, while his dad placed his strong arm around her waist, as if trying to assure her everything would be all right. However, all three knew nothing was for certain. The friends he had met at work promised a more exciting life—bigger city, fewer rules, more pay, and lots of parties. “Just wave, then put the pedal to the metal, Joe,” he said to himself. Somehow, the struggle inside was stronger than he had ever imagined it would be. He had thought it would be an easy trade. Now that the time was here, his thoughts were locked in battle.
“What’s the problem, Joe? There’s a world out there to experience. You’ve earned the right to go live the way you want. Now get out there and enjoy it!
“Joe, you know why you’re struggling? Your parents are the main reason you have anything valuable at this point in your life. Your dad poured blood, sweat, and tears into being sure you had a good start. He taught you how to be a man. Your mother looked after your daily needs by cleaning, cooking, mending, and supporting. Can you really take their 18-year investment and spend it on your 1-year friends?”
You and I both know parents whose hearts have been broken after giving their all to raise a child, only to see the child treat their sacrifice flippantly and choose a completely different life. It seems ungrateful and disloyal. It isn’t unlike the controversy I remember about whether Iraq should grant construction contracts to French companies when America had paid the price to free the Iraqi people. While all Americans were giving their tax dollars and others their very lives in battle, the French wouldn’t even give the air above their country for our planes to fly through. There is something repugnant about an attitude that accepts another’s deep sacrifice, then uses the proceeds of that sacrifice against the one sacrificing, be it a country or a child.
Contrast that with the child who takes the sacrifice of caring parents and builds on it for the rest of his life. He sees the daily investment and provision as a privilege granted him to build something great out of what he’s been entrusted with. Traits like loyalty and deep gratitude keep him from using his gifts against the giver. Every wise steward knows he ultimately receives more and produces more by taking what his master gives him and using it in ways that also make his master look good.
Every child of God faces this dilemma in the use of His gifts. A great picture of this is found in the funding of the temple in the Old Testament. Out of the spoils won in battles did they dedicate to maintain the house of the Lord (I Chronicles 26:27). It was customary to take spoils from the enemy you defeated in battle. In God’s eyes, however, it wasn’t just a way for the winning side to obtain more goods. It illustrated your understanding of how you won the battle in the first place and served as a memorial to Him. It gave credit where credit was due. Goliath’s sword was placed in the sanctuary at Nob. The Philistines put Saul’s armor in Ashteroth’s temple, believing he was responsible for the victory. While the firstfruits demonstrated your belief that God deserved the first of your increase, the spoils won in battle were dedicated to the One you believed helped you win that battle. God had helped His people win many battles on their journey to a new land, as well as helped them fight battles to get settled into Canaan. The Israelites knew they couldn’t have won those battles on their own. Only the hand of God could explain some of their victories. Therefore, once they won those battles, it was customary to take some of the spoils and give them to the temple in recognition that they did not obtain those spoils on their own, but that God had been responsible for the victory. Achan was one example of the tragedy of hoarding spoils from a battle he would have never won on his own (Joshua 6:19, 7:21).
Every child of God lives out this truth, for better or for worse. Even when we are not intentionally reliant upon Him, we only make it through certain parts of our days by His grace. When we are most aware of some battle facing us, we call on Him to help us in little ways and big. We need wisdom, so we ask. We need mercy, so we plead. We need provision, so we knock. We need forgiveness, so we petition. We would be consumed without Him. From the victories He helps us win come spoils won from those battles—the proceeds of His help. We earn salaries because He helps with our careers. We have health because He heals sickness. We win time because He kept something from becoming a disaster.
So, basically, if He helps you win the battles, can He trust you with the spoils? He helped you raise kids; does He get first claim on them? He helped you master a skill; does His bride, the church, get to benefit from it? He helps you earn a salary; is His church supported by part of it? It is quite refreshing to watch a youth take the sacrifice of his parents and gratefully embrace it. It is equally pleasing to see a child of God recognize the battles God has brought him through and use the spoils to further God’s kingdom, not just his own.