There once was a man who built a house for himself. He meticulously crafted every aspect, every detail he thought out, every element and color chosen to be a reflection of himself.
And it was a beautiful home.
Not long after though, his job required him to travel for an unspecified, but extended period of time. To ensure that his home was well cared for, he went looking for a tenant. He found another man who was, by trade, a skilled handy man, someone who he felt could manage the home and care for any needs that might arise. They struck a deal. In exchange for free rent, the man would take care of the home. He would be given whatever resources would be necessary to keep the home in the owner’s desired condition.
Then the owner left.
Now the tenant respected the owner. Being considerate of the owner, this kind and gentle man took good care of the home. Then one day, while outside working, he looked around at the neighborhood and noticed how many homes were run down. Compared to the home he was caring for, these homes were in need of a great deal of attention. He spent the next week walking around the neighborhood and talking with the owners of the other homes. He quickly came to the realization that many of the other homeowners simply did not have the skills or the knowledge, to keep homes in good condition. Knowing that he was in a position to help, he began to feel a deep sense of conviction to do something. So he did.
The tenant flung himself head long into helping his neighbors. He spent hours every week, often taking all his spare time to assist his neighbors. Years went by, and the tenant was praised by those who saw the change in the neighborhood. And a transformation it was!! He cleaned yards, he painted, and he fixed leaking roofs, giving sacrificially for the betterment of his neighbors. Soon, the tenant was well esteemed by everyone around.
Yet something else happened in that time. While the tenant was out helping everyone around him, he spent less and less time caring for the home he lived in. Over the years, the home deteriorated significantly. Weeds filled the yard, paint was peeling off the siding, and the screen door lay fallen on the porch.
Then the owner returned…
So here is a question for you. Is the tenant to be praised or rebuked?
Many would esteem the tenant for giving so much to help his neighbors in need. Others would praise him for his self-sacrifice. But is it self-sacrifice when what is sacrificed is not his to give?
The tenant didn’t own the home in which he lived, it belonged to another. He also had an obligation to care for the home, which he neglected. Is the neglecting of one’s obligations, even for the good of others, a praiseworthy act? No one would argue that his actions towards his neighbors weren’t without merit, but they were also not his obligation. How do you think the owner would feel? Would he rejoice at the site of the neighborhood when his own home is in shambles?
Let me change the scene just a little bit…
Let’s say the “homeowner” is God. Scripture is very clear that God is the Creator. Specifically, he creates life and he SUSTAINS life. Now let’s say that the “home” is our family. Would anyone argue that our wives and our children are NOT a gift from God? Would anyone argue that God has NOT given us a responsibility to care for our families? They are not ours, we did not create them, yet we are blessed with them, and we have been given the responsibility to care for them in the way that their maker desires. And he has made available to us the resources we need to fulfill this obligation.
So am I saying the tenant should not have helped his neighbors? Not at all!! But when a person gives to everyone else at the expense of his God-given obligation, then something is wrong. God does not give us our families and then ask us to neglect them in the pursuit of helping others whom he has not specifically charged us to care for. Am I supposed to love my neighbor? Absolutely! Does God want me to neglect, as a whole, my family so I can care for my neighbor? I don’t believe he does. Our families are not obstacles to ministry, they ARE our ministry, first and foremost, and they can be a vehicle to bring the gospel to others in a way that is God ordained and God glorifying!
Think about it. When the owner returns and holds you accountable for the house he gave you to care for, will you be pointing at the neighborhood and boasting of your feats in helping fix up everyone else’s houses while yours sits derelict? Will he respond with joy that you disobeyed his directive to care for the house he gave you so you could care for ones he did not place under your care?