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Waste Not Want Not


So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost."
John 6:12

I heard it first in my mother's kitchen where many a good lesson was learned, but I believe it was first said by Benjamin Franklin, "Waste not want not." It is a maxim that serves to remind us that what we preserve today will help preserve us tomorrow. There are casseroles to be made out of leftovers, and there are quilts to be made out of scrap material. This extends to money for if we take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves. Waste not want not is good advice, and Jesus would agree.

In the account of the feeding of the five thousand, we see Jesus instruct His disciples to gather the leftover food so that none of it was wasted (John 6:12). Some twelve baskets of surplus bread were gathered and more than likely distributed to the poor in the surrounding areas (John 6:13). In this act we see our Lord's distaste for waste. One might wonder why any man who can miraculously feed more than five thousand people would worry about leftovers, but Jesus was an exemplary man; and therefore is showing us that God's bounty is not to be wasted. The abundant blessing of God is not an invitation to poor stewardship. Consequently, the Christian's stewardship of material things must constantly be measured against that word of Jesus to His disciples as they collected the fragments of food, "nothing lost or wasted." It is certainly convicting in the face of world hunger where vast numbers of people live off scraps of food while developed countries like ours struggle with obesity and alcoholism. Surely this is a call to do more with what we have for others in need.

Waste not want not also extends to God's dealing with us. To read the Bible and Christian biography is to learn that God wastes few things in our lives. For example, He does not waste the trouble we go through or the life we lived before Christ.

In the life of Joseph we see that God does not waste the trouble we go through. Looking back over the losses and crosses that he endured, things such as betrayal, false accusations, and broken promises, Joseph is still able to say that God had made him fruitful in the land of his affliction (Gen 41:52). God had a plan in his pain and brought good out of the bad (Gen. 45:5, 50:20). God did not waste Joseph's sorrows and neither does He waste ours (Rom. 8:28; James 1:2-4). Thomas Brooks the Puritan wisely reminds us, "Suffering times are the Christian's harvest times."

In the life of Matthew we see that God does not waste our past. It has been well said Matthew left everything but his pen and followed Jesus (Luke 5:27-28). Matthew had a sharp mind, was good with numbers, and conversant in Aramaic, Greek, and Latin. He was an excellent candidate to write the first book of the New Testament. This former bookkeeper was an ideal choice to trace the genealogy of Christ back through the royal line of David and Abraham, father of the Jews. Some years ago my brother Ian wrote in the flyleaf of a book he had gifted to me, "God prepares us for all that He is preparing us for." How true! Waste not want not is a word to us and God's work around us!