The governor of Colorado was recently asked to recall the worst case of waste he had seen in the past year. “That’s easy,” he said. “It was one day last July, with the outside temperature at ninety-six degrees. The state building in Denver had the air conditioning on so cold that one of the secretaries had a heater plugged in alongside her desk.”

The United States is the world leader in waste. With 6 per cent of the world population, it uses 30 per cent of the world’s energy. A report in the Washington Post that quoted the Colorado governor also noted that the disparity has not changed a single percentage point since the beginning of the energy crisis. The energy wasted by 205 million Americans is said to equal the energy used by 105 million Japanese. Canada, with an affluence comparable to that of the United States, also has a very high rate of energy consumption.

That is not to say that only North Americans are guilty of enormous waste. Neither does it say that energy is the only waste problem. But North Americans with their abundance of education and communications resources should certainly be more conscious of the evils of waste, and their technology enables them to practice conservation much more effectively than is possible elsewhere.

We think of waste as a dripping faucet, or lights left on unnecessarily, or leftover food that is thrown away. Our attention has been drawn dramatically to the dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and to the growing obligation human beings have not to squander them. But other kinds of waste deserve attention also, especially from the Christian. Time, effort (physical and mental), money, and life itself, should be conserved. The whole concept of redemption is in a sense based on God’s having given his son for a humanity laid waste by sin, and having thereby made provision for saving souls who trust him from the cosmic refuse heap.

Wasting, whether material or spiritual, is not simply an undesirable practice to avoid when convenient. Waste is wrong. It is a moral evil. It is sinful because it is a misappropriation of resources that God has entrusted to his creation. Failure to put things to their proper, God-given purpose is something for which everyone will eventually be judged and held accountable.

The evil of misuse goes right back to the Garden of Eden: Adam and Eve, in a place of plenty, having all the trees but one to choose from, needlessly and wrongfully took and ate the fruit from that one.

One does not have to read very far into the Bible to see that it calls repeatedly for judicious use of resources. The principle is found in connection with grain stored up for famines, careful treatment of the manna in the wilderness, and the gathering up of leftovers when Jesus fed the multitudes. Never does Scripture condone waste.

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Jesus taught good stewardship very clearly. The parables of the talents and the pounds were down-to-earth lessons about what God has entrusted to human beings. Unfortunately, these admonitions against waste have been woefully neglected by today’s churchgoers. Even scholars fail to recognize them. You will find neither “waste” nor “conservation” entries in the standard dictionaries of Christian ethics.

But now the waste-not principle seems to be gaining a little ground. The economic pinch is finally motivating people to conserve. In the Christian realm, many people are beginning to discuss the principles of good management in the church, in the home, and in everyday personal life. Several books have come out recently arguing for careful use of time and energy, and offering instructions in how to go about it. The Christian Stewardship Council has developed a highly commendable “Code of Ethical Pursuit” that should go a long way toward sorting out worthy evangelical enterprises from those that are financially negligent and exploitative.

No rational person would argue for waste, so any debate would presumably be limited to methods of avoiding it. The problem needs to be attacked at all levels—from the smallest kitchen and bathroom to the largest corporate or governmental office. During recent months the Pentagon has been a big energy saver: military aircraft burned 2.2 billion fewer gallons of jet fuel last year than in 1973. The Weyerhaeuser Company has begun a $75 million program to convert its biggest pulp and paper mills to burning wood waste instead of oil and gas. But individual homeowners also must take an energy inventory and determine to reduce waste. Power companies can supply you with data on how much gas and electricity various appliances consume, and these facts can help you start conserving.

An ecological emphasis has become traditional in April, perhaps because we are more inclined to be nice to Mother Earth when she is decked out in the lush green of spring. Could not churches everywhere seize upon this seasonal consciousness for a monumental impact against waste? Could not pastors devote at least one sermon to it, challenging parishioners to draw up lists of saving ideas and to commit themselves to making these a part of their lives? Christ’s lordship extends to all aspects of his creation, and his will is not waste.

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Christian Stewardship Council ode of Ethical Pursuit

The true nature of giving is revealed in the Holy Scriptures as being related both to man’s attitudes toward God and his fellow men. Therefore, an approach to donors toward giving should be made with emphasis upon scriptural motivation. With these basic tenets in mind, the following elements are presented as performance guidelines for membership in the Christian Stewardship Council:

1. Each institution should have a purpose to serve the cause of Jesus Christ in an efficient manner without hindering the efforts of other established and functioning ministries.

2. Each institution should have a Governing Board of active, responsible people who hold regular meetings, create policy and maintain effective control.

3. Methods of promotion and solicitation should demonstrate high ethical standards and good manners befitting the biblical injunction of Luke 6:31, “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”

4. Annual audits of financial records should be prepared by an outside professional C.P.A. showing reasonable detail and should be available upon demand. New organizations should have available for their publics a C.P.A.’s statement that a proper financial system has been installed.

5. This Council looks with disfavor upon individuals or institutions using methods harmful to the public, such as exaggerated claims of achievements, guaranteed results, and unreasonable promises.

6. As a member organization it shall comply with Federal, State and Municipal regulations.

7. As a member organization it shall employ representatives who will conduct their activities within generally accepted professional standards of accuracy, truth and good taste.

8. As a member organization it shall employ representatives who will have objectives consonant with its program.

9. As a member organization it shall employ representatives on a predetermined standard fee or salary basis and will insist that the employee manage personal data entrusted to him solely for the benefit of the employer. Commission or percentage reimbursements for services rendered are deemed unethical and unprofessional practices in fund raising.

Some Enemies

Syncretism is a false and recurring option that attracts the unwary, cuts the root of evangelism, and waters down personal missionary commitment. In 1966 the Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission at Wheaton, Illinois, defined syncretism as “the attempt to unite or reconcile biblically revealed Christian truth with the diverse or opposing tenets and practices of non-Christian religions or other systems of thought that deny it.”

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The congress insisted that syncretism must be resisted “in spite of any opposition we may encounter, and we must bear our testimony with humility and dignity.”

Today syncretism presents a strong challenge to historic Christianity. It is aided by an increasing hostility to dogmatic assertions as well as by an antipathy toward well-meaning Christians who, short on the “humility” if not the “dignity” mentioned above, approach people of other faiths with a wholly critical attitude, puffed up in their own pride. We must agree that a critical spirit and pride are likewise enemies of true Christianity. Christ was indeed clear in articulating truth. He endorsed dogma, but he was not dogmatic in spirit. Even when he pronounced judgment on Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Luke 9:41 ff.) because of its rejection of him, he wept with compassion for the city.

When reaching out to others with whose convictions he cannot agree, the Christian should never do so with a critical spirit, looking down his nose at someone else’s religious views. Rather, he should come as one beggar sharing bread with another to use a well-known phrase. For a Christian to display a superiority complex because he has an assurance of salvation freely given him by God is to distort the emphasis on grace in God’s dealings with man through Christ.

Insistence upon the uniqueness and finality of Christ is the result not of Christian pride in a dogmatic system of our own devising, but of Christian faithfulness to a truth that has been communicated to us from outside ourselves. The Christian can no more alter the fact that salvation revolves around Christ than the astronomer can alter the fact that the earth revolves around the sun.

In agreement with last year’s Lausanne Covenant, “we also reject as derogatory to Christ and the Gospel every kind of syncretism and dialogue which implies that Christ speaks equally through all religions and ideologies. Jesus Christ … is the only mediator between God and man. There is no other name by which we must be saved.”

Storms And More Storms

Slowly but surely, Cambodia and South Viet Nam are coming under North Vietnamese domination. Portugal appears to be trading a long-lived dictatorship from the right for one from the left. The turn of events in Portugal is likely before long to have reverberations in neighboring Spain, which almost certainly will enter a period of turmoil when the aged Franco dies. It is hard to see how Italy can continue much longer with its chronic political instability. (Whether even the large Communist party of Italy really wants to be saddled with the responsibility for governing the land is open to question.)

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The widespread esteem for the United States that was the legacy of World War II and the Marshall Plan has almost evaporated. Our once dominant currency now counts for little more than that of any other industrial country.

Nations everywhere realize that our prolonged commitment of men and money to Viet Nam, which was intended to demonstrate that we would stick by non-Communist governments no matter what, has had the effect of making us less likely to come to the aid of such governments than if we had never gotten involved in the Indochina morass. A new isolationism, ominously similar in some respects to the kind that preceded World War II, is developing. Surely there must be some stable position between improper interventionism and selfish isolationism!

To be sure, in the Middle East we will still try, through Geneva now that Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy has bogged down to bring negotiated peace to a politically strategic as well as religiously significant region.

The inescapable conclusion is that a new age is aborning, and few would be so out of touch as to forecast that it be an age of peace, prosperity, and international harmony. Certainly never in our time and perhaps never in any other time has Armageddon seemed closer. The turmoil of today may well presage the end of Western and world culture as we have known them.

In such cataclysmic times, even Christians may find themselves growing fearful. But there is another dimension to the picture. We are to lift up our heads, for our redemption draws near. Men are doing their best to ruin things, but God is sovereign. His bright new world is coming, a world in which there will be no hunger, no wars, no dictatorships, no isolationism, no cancer, no inflation—no tears, no sorrow, and best of all, no sin. The storm clouds are heavy and menacing, but in the east there is the sure sign of the sun that will shine and the kingdom that will come.

Getting Your Penny’S Worth

One of the best book bargains of the year is the more than 1,400-page compilation of the messages, reports, and responses at the International Congress on World Evangelization, held in July, 1974, in Lausanne, Switzerland. For only $12.95, less than a penny a page, it provides scores of papers on such vital topics as “The Nature of Biblical Unity,” “The Positive and Negative Forces of Evangelization,” and “The Highest Priority: Cross-cultural Evangelism.” Also included are studies of evangelism among different kinds of people (city dwellers, collegians, adherents of various religions) and in more than fifty countries or regions. Doctrinal studies of the crucial elements of the Christian faith and practical studies on distinguishing biblical precepts from cultural practices are among the many kinds of material included in this volume. The title is Let the Earth Hear His Voice and the editor is J. D. Douglas. Obtain a copy from your local bookstore or by mail from World Wide Publications, Box 1240, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55440 (add $.50 to the $12.95 price for shipping).

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Christ’S Post-Resurrection Ministry

Relatively little is said about the ministry of Jesus Christ during the interval of several weeks between his initial resurrection appearances (reported in the last chapters of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and in the next-to-last chapter of John) and his final ascension, followed a few days later by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (reported in the first two chapters of Acts).

Luke indicates that Jesus taught his disciples (Luke 24:44–47) much as he had taught two of them on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). Throughout this period he was “speaking of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). But evidently much that he was trying to communicate eluded the disciples, because even after several weeks they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:7)

John, in his last chapter, is the only writer who gives an extended presentation of one of these teaching sessions, and he likewise indicates the disciples’ misunderstanding (John 21:23).

We can derive at least two general lessons from the little knowledge we have of this phase of our Lord’s ministry. First, God is aware that we need special provision for a period of transition when sudden change enters our lives. The disciples had been accustomed to having Jesus present in the flesh to guide them. Soon they would have the Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering them in a dramatically new way. But to ease the transition, the resurrected Jesus appeared to them from time to time.

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If, for example, one to whom we are especially close suddenly dies, we cannot expect God to let him or her appear to us from time to time, but we can expect that God will assuage our grief and in other ways, often involving the help of fellow Christians, provide extraordinary assistance during a time of transition.

Secondly, Jesus’ post-resurrection ministry gives us incentive to teach even when we are pretty sure that we are not fully getting across our message. That even our Lord, through no fault of his own, had difficulties along these lines should encourage us. (To be sure we need to recognize that in our case, inadequate communication is as often the fault of the teacher as of the student.) The disciples were later to have a better understanding of what Christ had earlier taught them; so also can the children, new converts, and others to whom we seek to minister.

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