Tool or Toy?

I’m getting older and here’s how I know it.

1.  Pimento cheese sandwiches have started to taste good.

My grandmother used to eat pimento cheese sandwiches.  Whenever she offered me one, I would politely decline and tell her that pimento cheese sandwiches were for old people.  Looking back, that’s not too polite.

2.  Sometimes I watch RFDTV.

If you don’t know what RFDTV is, here’s a quick introduction.  For 12 hours every day they show what appears to be footage of cows that was filmed with a video camera in 1983.  The cows aren’t doing anything but, apparently, if you see one you like, you can call in and order one.  The other 12 hours of programming are devoted to obscure country musicians sitting around and telling stories about the time when they got to open up for Barbara Mandrell at Gilley’s.  The fact that I watch this says two things.  One, there’s never anything good on TV and two, like I said, I’m getting old.

3.  Christmas just ain’t what it used to be.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Christmas but I still remember the first Christmas that I didn’t get any toys.  It was depressing.  All I got was a bath robe and a shoe horn.  Both come in handy while I’m sitting around eating pimento cheese sandwiches and watching RFDTV.

People haven’t stopped giving me gifts.  It’s just that those gifts have become more practical.  When my wife and I got married someone gave me a tool box.  There were no action figures or monster trucks inside.  Just plenty of space for tools.  The lady who gave it to me told me that I was going to need it.

When my dad gives me a gift there’s always strategy involved.  I have at least three different sets of sockets that he has given me.  Each time he told me that I might need this someday.

Someday finally came when I became a homeowner.  I use those sockets and that tool box almost every day.  Changing light bulbs can be tricky, you know.

As I grew older, somewhere along the way, my gifts stopped being about my own personal entertainment and started being about something deeper.  Gifts that I can use to help others.  Gifts that, in their own way, shine a spotlight on the giver.  I can’t use that tool box or one of those socket sets without thinking about the person that gave them to me.

Every believer has been given a gift by God.  If you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve been told that thousands of times.  You’ve probably even taken tests to figure out what your gift is.  But simply knowing what your gift is, or even how to use that gift, isn’t enough.

It’s important to know why that gift was given to you.

God has not given us gifts for our own personal glory or amusement (1 Corinthians 12 – 14).  His gifts are meant to help us to love Him and others better.  To put it another way, he gives us tools, not toys.  Toys are hoarded by tiny little creatures that like to yell, “Mine!” when someone else wants to play.  Tools are instruments in the hands of servants who are looking for ways to help.

If we are to properly understand our money, our home, our talents or any other blessing from God we must view those blessings as tools rather than toys.  There was a man named Barnabas that viewed his property as a tool so he sold it and gave the proceeds to his church so that needy people could be helped (Acts 4:36-37).  Apparently he was really good at this because Barnabas was a nickname that meant Son of Encouragement.  Other than Flame Thrower, Son of Encouragement would be my nickname of choice.  Instead, I got Jay Bird.

Some in the body of Christ are rich and some are poor.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the rich folks in God’s kingdom.  We live in a time when people act as if it’s a sin to be rich.

It’s not.

Just as long as you remember that the riches that God has given to you are tools instead of toys.