"And David said unto Ahimelech, And is there not here under thine hand spear or sword? for I have neither brought my sword nor my weapons with me, because the king's business required haste. And the priest said, The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom thou slewest in the valley of Elah, behold, it is here wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod: if thou wilt take that, take it: for there is no other save that here. And David said, There is none like that; give it me." 1 Samuel 21:8-10
There is probably a tool for every job. There are probably gadgets lying around our homes in bags, drawers or tool boxes. Can we identify them by name? If challenged, would we know what to do with them, or just concoct a use for them based on what we think they are? "What is this for?", we ask before we decide whether or not we need to keep the mystery tool, or throw it away. There’s always a tool that will allow us to perform a task with greater ease, in less time, and with better results. What works for others, however may not work for you. That sounds simple enough. The scripture finds David in search of tools. It’s ironic that the same David, who had earlier rejected the weaponry of Saul as he prepared to fight Goliath, was later being offered, and accepted the sword of Goliath- as he was running from Saul!
David had been given an assignment by his father prior to his entanglement with the giant. He was merely being obedient when he arrived with roasted grain and bread for his brothers and cheese for the commander of their unit. Instead of being thanked and greeted warmly for bringing food, David’s brother chastised, criticized, accused and challenged him. David’s purpose for being there changed dramatically when he heard the words Goliath spoke against God. David’s brother was not only going to see him in the battle, but David would perform with the kind of bravery and skill that none of the soldiers had been willing or able to demonstrate. He was going to defeat the enemy on his own terms and using the tools with which he was accustomed. He had developed mastery with those tools. It was clear that he carefully selected stones. There were things he learned as a result of his prior experience that would serve him well in the most notable confrontation of his life.
Possessing the proper tools for a job and choosing not using them is just foolish, and guarantees among other things, a big mess and wasted time. Having great tools and not knowing how to use them reduces them to decoration. Having available helpers who do know how to use the tools, and not bothering to enlist their expertise makes even less sense. Proper tools utilized in proper places, are a terrific idea and conserves energy.
When faced with a task, wisdom says prepare. Perhaps there will be big mess, but it doesn’t mean it’s not manageable.
You don’t see the task at hand and then guess at what you need to complete it. No. Any task has to be assessed.
Consider the fish cleaner. Part of the task of cleaning an actual fish is removing the scales. What do you do? If you don’t know, your first inclination would be to grab a knife. Maybe you’ve tried it, and had to learn the sloppy way that scraping with the grain of a fish’s scales using an ordinary knife won’t get rid of a thing. There’s a proper way to do everything in order to obtain optimal results. Scraping against the grain of the scales with an actual fish scaler will help you achieve the objective- which is to remove the scales! Do we want to play with the fish or clean them? How a fish is treated soon after it is caught has so much to do with whether it will be preserved or discarded. Fish, like people don’t fare well when they are mishandled! It doesn’t take much to badly bruise them, and they can’t be left out in the elements. A few days of improper treatment renders the caught fish unusable. Do you see a connection?
We have a tendency to make some things more complicated than they have to be. Sometimes a simple thing can be a big help. If you know a mess is imminent, make provision and use common sense. I thought about the process of cleaning actual fish and remembered that the first thing most people do, if they’re inside, is to protect the surface on which they are going to work. The first thing most people reach for is old newspaper. When it comes to making mess, suddenly that old, cheap newspaper is like gold. The ever abundant newsprint paper seems perfect for holding all of the mess, and it’s wide enough, plentiful enough, and pliable enough to just ball up and throw away when the job is over. Every task does not require great expense. Can you imagine someone cleaning fish on a linen covered mahogany table? Who cares about being pretentious when they just want to be clean? How many valuable things and people have we thrown away because we used them improperly and unnecessarily? What far reaching choices have we made when we could have just selected something right under our noses? Cleaning fish? Get newsprint. It does the job and then is easily disposed of. That’s right. Throw it away. Cleaning people? Be careful that the wrong things don’t end up in the garbage.
When something has served its purpose, it’s time to move on to newness in thought and deed. When something has exhausted its capacity, or begins to stink, it’s time to toss it and replace it with something new. Something clean has to be separated from any and all sources of contamination. Past hurts, failures, mishaps and messes have to be tossed out, like the fish scales in the newspaper. When Jesus healed the woman of her issue, he said “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague". Mark 5:34. I’m sure she was not the least bit interested in carrying around, keeping or wearing the clothes of her infirmity! They’d served their purpose long enough.
If you’re cleaning, keeping the junk and trash around is counterproductive. Even when you think the entire residue has been removed, a little rinsing never hurt. The need for thorough washing has to be understood. The knife, the scaler, the newspaper and the rinsing takes care of the surface, but what about the insides? It’s sobering, but if a fish is being cleaned, it’s already dead, so the next necessary step won’t hurt in the least—and it means a lot more mess. If we’re going to serve, we have to finish the job.
If you want a good fillet, there are knives specially made to make sure no meat is lost. Fish have scales, and some genius actually manufactures fish scalers just to help that task along. I found out that a fish’s scales are a good place for bacteria to live. Getting rid of scales insures a cleaner, longer lasting, and better tasting piece of fish. In like manner, those things that are upon the people of God which causes them to be soiled, weak, sour, or threatens their longevity have to be removed. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and time is not always on your side.
Why not invest in anything that will assist in getting a job done more efficiently and effectively? Why keep using the same old things just because they are convenient? Sure, you can always substitute one tool for another. A butter knife makes a great screwdriver, but every screw is not the same. A drawer full of faithful butter knives pale in comparison to one Phillips head screwdriver when the screw you’re trying to loosen has a Phillips head. As there are varying types of screws, there are varying types of fish, with varying purposes but one goal in common- survival.
Ephesians 4:11-15 reads, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ."
People are in fact resources. We cannot continue to make the mistakes of lumping everyone in the same category, leaving huge amounts of critical work in the hands of a few, and being so covetous or insecure that we take on tasks, and assume positions that our hands were never intended, nor assigned to handle. To do so threatens that our own true calling and gifts are never realized. We must believe in God’s willingness and ability to provide us with everything we need to flourish. 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 reads, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?"
Obviously the answer is "No", and we must act accordingly. Helping to clean up people, like cleaning fish, and obtaining the best they have to offer is not for novices! Carelessness in employing the tools of our service is unacceptable.
There are those who are given to finding fault and ever evaluating whether or not people are suitable for one task or another. It’s the kind of thinking that leads some people to believe they have to be an integral part of everything and present everywhere whether their gifts, callings or talents are suitable for a job or not. There’s a level of insecurity and selfishness in those who are rigid and inflexible with regards to others. We have no choice but to see the good and employ the proper tools to bring it to light! Further we must embrace the very real truth that the best man or woman for the job is always the one whom God designates. Whether we choose to do so or not, God’s purposes will always be fulfilled. We can’t mishandle the people of God- especially babes in Christ. We certainly can’t be serious when we scratch our heads and wonder why they don’t stick around, and choose to take their chances in the world’s muddy river instead.