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Chapter 17 - Maximize Your Resources

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall wear.

Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.

Consider the ravens: for they neither plant nor harvest; they neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them: And how much better are you than the birds!

And which of you can add one inch to his height through willpower? If you are not able to do that which is least, why worry about the rest?

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither work nor spin, and yet I tell you that Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as richly as one of them. If God so clothes the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be you of doubtful mind. For all these things are sought by those of every nation, and your Father knows that you have need of these things. But rather seek the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's desire to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have, and give to charity; provide yourselves containers that will not decay, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, that no thief can come near, and no moth can destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will be your heart.
- Luke 20:22-34

One of Jesus most striking and pointed parables is about a farmer who has a particularly good year. His fields are overflowing with produce to the point where he can no longer even store everything he has harvested. In a mood of cheerful self-congratulation, he decides to tear down his old barns, and build new barns that will be twice as large. By doing this, he plans to save enough that he can enjoy himself in peace, comfort and security for many years to come. Unfortunately, in the midst of his plenty, he hears a voice from heaven. Fool! This very night, your soul will be required of you, and then who will enjoy all your wealth? Like so many people in modern times, the farmer of the parable believed that his savings and investments would provide him a happy retirement. His own death, however, was right around the corner, and his trust in material success turned out to be misplaced.

The lesson for Christian Heroes, and the communities they lead, is to not hoard their resources. Rather, everything that your community has should be put to its best possible use at all times. A Christian Hero does not waste anything he or she owns, nor hoard anything he or she does not use. As Jesus made clear, God will call us to account for the resources we hoard and opportunities we waste.

This lesson has particular relevance for the Christian Hero of today and now, in light of the environmental crises produced by our societys wasteful ways. Back in chapter nine, we examined the parable of the talents; the story of two good servants who increased what was entrusted them by their lord, and one bad servant who wasted the opportunity he was given. We must learn to see the environmental resources of the world the fresh water, the vast forests, the fertile oceans, the deposits of oils, minerals and metal as all having been entrusted to us by God in the exact same way as the money was entrusted to the three servants by their Lord in the parable of the talents. As we recall, when the Lord of the parable returned, he praised the servants who had done well with their resources, and chastised the servant who had done poorly with his. We people of today, however, are in even more danger than the unprofitable servant. He at least buried his resources and was able to return to his Lord exactly as much as he had been given. We, on the other hand, are squandering our resources so quickly that we are in real danger of being left with none of what was entrusted to us at all.

Take an inventory of all the things that you own or your community owns. Each item on the list should be in use. If not, either figure out a way to use it, or find a way to donate it to a person or community who will be able to use it. For everything that is being used, consider whether you are using it as fully and as well as possible. Consider money, space, human resources and environmental resources, as well as any other kind of resources you can identify.
Mahalia Jackson

Mahalia (Mahala) Jackson
Maximize Your Resources

Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was known for being thrifty and tight with money. She could also, however, be surprisingly generous, and she knew well how to maximize her resources by making a small amount of money travel a large distance.

For example, one night during the middle of the Great Depression, Jackson was traveling home from work when she saw a large group of people standing in a soup line. At the time, Jackson had yet to strike it rich, and she was supporting herself not only through her music, but with a second job doing laundry. Even with so little in her own pocket, however, she was acutely aware of how many others were doing even worse. Accordingly, she invited the people she saw standing there home to her house, even though they were strangers to her. There she fed them a good home-cooked meal, thrown together from what odds and ends she could find around the house. At the end of the meal, her guests were so grateful that Jackson decided to make it a regular occurrence. Just as the disciples of Christ had witnessed on the occasion of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jackson had discovered that a little could go a long way when shared in a spirit of love.

I just told a bunch of those guys to come on over to my house and I cooked string beans, and ham hocks and cornbread, and neck bones and rice. I must have fed about twenty people.
Mahalia (Mahala) Jackson, The Voice of Gospel and Civil Rights (Kramer)

Toyohiko Kagawa

Reverend Toyohiko Kagawa (Kagawa Toyohiko)
Maximize Your Resources

Few people have ever carried the principle of maximizing every resource to as extreme lengths as Reverend Toyohiko Kagawa of Japan. During his years in seminary he took the meager allowance the students were given for living expenses, and devoted it to serving the poor. Although his fellow students found it difficult to support even themselves on the minimal scholarship, Kagawa found a way to get the most out of every last yen.

His first move was to leave the student dormitory. The small private rooms there were simple and plain, but even so, Kagawa found them overpriced and self-indulgent. Instead he elected to move into one of the citys poorest slums, where real estate was cheap. Once there, he found the best possible price by renting a hovel that had been abandoned for many years because it had a reputation for being haunted.

Once he had changed locations, Kagawa also simplified his meals, electing to subsist chiefly on twice-daily rations of rice and water. In this manner, he was able to cut his expenses down to the minimum necessary for survival. His goal, however, was neither simply to save money, nor, like the medieval monks, to suffer for the purpose of suffering. Instead, his plan was to spread his scant funds as widely as possible. By offering his own food and shelter to the homeless and the destitute of the neighborhood, he was able to support four adults on the equivalent of ten and a half American dollars a month, an amount that was considered barely adequate for a single person alone. When donations increased his income to fifty dollars a month, he increased his household size to sixteen.

Throughout life, Kagawa maintained his determination to help as many people as possible with his every available resource. Even when he had a wife and three children of his own to support, he still devoted the overwhelming bulk of his income to his numerous programs for the poor. By the time of his death, his efforts and his initiatives had touched the lives of millions throughout Japan.

If you want to live a happy life, make it simple. The sense of beauty does not come from luxurious living. The beauty of art and nature is in its simplicity, and it is only by living in simplicity that we can learn the beauty of God.
Reverend Toyohiko Kagawa (Kagawa Toyohiko), A Seed Shall Serve (Simon)

Martin Luther King

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther (Michael) King, Jr.
Maximize Your Resources

Martin Luther King, Jr. was often forced to be creative because of being denied the resources and opportunities of mainstream society. This ability to maximize his resources became a crucial part of the success of the Montgomery bus boycott.

At the start, the segregationists of Montgomery believed the boycott was doomed to failure because most black people in the city were dependent on public transportation, and there was no other means of transport available. Instead of giving up, however, King and the other blacks of Montgomery used every available resource at their disposal. Those fortunate to have cars of their own organized car-pools, sometimes shuttling multiple car-loads of passengers between one place and another. Others used their powers of persuasion to secure rides from their white employers, even when those same employers favored segregation. Finally, when all else failed, the blacks of Montgomery went from place to place on foot, even when that took many extra hours, and resulted in weary and aching feet.

As a result of their resourcefulness, the blacks of Montgomery proved they could and would live in independence from the bus system. In the end, the bus boycott was a success largely because the city of Montgomery was more dependent on the resources represented by its black citizens than those citizens were dependent on the resources offered them by their city.

Quote available only in print, by arrangement with the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther (Michael) King, Jr.,

Sundar Singh

Sádhu Sundar Singh
Maximize Your Resources

Sádhu Sundar Singh grew up in the lap of luxury, in the home of a wealthy family. It was perhaps the emptiness and unhappiness he felt there, in the midst of plenty, that convinced him that he needed no other resources in life than what he gained through service to Christ. Accordingly, he spent the next forty years of his life both homeless and penniless; carrying only the Bible; wearing only his sdhus robes; eating only what was given to him, or what he could find; taking shelter only as it was offered; and traveling from place to place either on foot, or by transportation arranged by his supporters. In spite of these restrictions he maximized his resources in a way that allowed him to travel worldwide, and to touch the lives of many thousands of people.

Many people are surprised to see me in my simple dress with no socks or boots on my feet. But I told them that I love simplicity and that wherever I go I want to live in the same way as I live in India, not changing my color like a chameleon. I have been in England only two weeks and so cannot speak with much confidence of my impressions. But I feel that, just as the sun is seldom to be seen on account of fogs and mist, so the Sun [Son] of Righteousness is almost always hidden by the fogs and mists of materialism.
Sádhu Sundar Singh, The Message of Sádhu Sundar Singh (Streeter)

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa ("Agnes" Gonxha Bojaxhiu)
Maximize Your Resources

Although their family was not poor, Mother Teresas mother, Drana, believed that thriftiness was a virtue. In their house, even the electric lights would not be turned on at night unless there was productive work being done in the household. In her later life as a nun, Mother Teresa took her mothers philosophy of thrift and applied it to every part of her organization. As a result of her ability to maximize her resources, she was able to open new programs, homes and projects in a matter of months, where others might have taken years to plan and implement each detail. By forcing each project to subsist on a minimum of funding, Mother Teresa was able to spread her resources as widely and as effectively as possible.

Even on the occasion of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa kept this philosophy very much in mind. When she found out that the Prize Committee was intending to throw her a reception costing $6000, she instead asked for the money, and used it to buy an entire years worth of food for 400 people within her homes. Similarly, when Pope Paul VI gave her a luxury car, she immediately raffled it off, and used the money to open a lepers colony.

How can you truly know the poor unless you live like them? If they complain about the food, we can say that we eat the same. The more we have the less we can give. Poverty is a wonderful gift because it gives us freedom it means we have fewer obstacles to God.
Mother Teresa ("Agnes" Gonxha Bojaxhiu),

Closing Prayer (inspired by Mark 12:41-44)

Dear Lord, help me use everything you have given me to its fullest extent, Amen.
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