There is a pithy, wise saying that I just came across in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 10:18.  It reads:

“Through laziness, the rafters sag;
because of idle hands, the house leaks.”

I think the metaphors in this verse may not seen relevant to today’s world.  Try to imagine if you will, part of your own house having a spot that literally sags when you walk on that spot.  Or imagine that the seal is loose at the base of your toilet so that every time you flush, water starts leaking across the floor.

What would your response be?  Wouldn’t you call in an expert such as a carpenter to fix the flooring and a plumber to fix your toilet.  And I would guess that most of us make that call to bring in the expert as soon as possible.  We may procrastinate on some things, but on emergency issues, we respond very quickly and get the problem fixed right away.

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The same cannot be said to be true of the majority of the people living in Papua New Guinea.  When the thatched roof material starts to leak inside the hut, it may take days or weeks to fix the roof.  And in the meantime, they just move their belongings around and sometimes place a pot under the leak so as to not waste this precious rain water.

Now almost all rural houses in PNG are built off the ground on stilts, large tree trunks at least 20 inches wide and about 8 feet long.  After these posts are evenly placed in holes, the foundation level of the house can be built.  Then the wall frame-work is done, the roof frame is put on, walls made out of interwoven bamboo strips are joined to the frame, and then the thatched roof is added on top to protect against the sun by day, and the rains by night.

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It is amazing what the Papuans can build simply out of material that they can get from the jungle all around them.  But one of the principles by which the people operate is this: if it hasn’t broken yet, then don’t worry about it.  Doing regular maintenance on the house and taking proactive steps to avoid the house falling down just doesn’t compute in their culture.

So what happens is what we expect to happen: the floors start to sag, and the roof starts to leak.  The men don’t do anything about the house problem until it is sagging and leaning over to at least a 45 degree angle.  And their solution is to start gathering new material from the jungle and build the second house right next to the first house.

Stripping the metaphorical language in this one verse, we could perhaps translate it very meaningfully by saying, “If we put off until the future the things that we need to take care of today, then we jeopardize the very foundation of anything we are trying to accomplish.  And if we just sit around and ignore any issues when they are small, then when the issues start to become big, they can cause all kinds of damage.”

Now at this point in my life, I think I can say that I do not have a problem with being lazy or being idle. In fact, I am more busy now in my various ministry roles than I have ever been since all the way back to 2007, when Jill and I carried the weight of the Branch in East Africa.

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So let me tell you what some of the aspects of ministry that I am involved with right now:

  1. Doing exegetical background reading on the Gospel of John, in preparation for doing the consultant check of it in two languages. And then preparing to check either Romans or Ephesians in another language and finally Daniel for another language all in PNG.
  2. Reviewing revisions on the book of Acts, for a project in Southeast Asia, as well as starting to consultant check Matthew for the same group through internet file sharing.
  3. Helping to train new missionaries for our mission: Pioneer Bible Translators.
  4. Keeping in good contact with all of our regular donors, and with our Prayer Warrior people on a weekly basis.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, I need to stay in good, healthy contact with my family, in order to support and encourage my children, and love my wife from a distance who is back in Calgary.
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So definitely I have way too much on my plate to do.  I won’t have time to be idle to get these things done.  But staying so busy can lead to other difficulties.  Unless I am able to exercise tremendously good time management skills, then I will very possibly drop some of the balls I am carrying.

To bring this all back to where we started in Ecclesiastes, it will not be a desire on my part that some of my “house” may fall down. And yet still, not due to laziness, but rather to taking on too many responsibilities in life and ministry that will end up with the same result in that our untended house may “sag” or “leak”.

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And this all leads us now to an important point that I want to make for all of us, whether we are under-achieving in our lives, or we are over-achieving kind of people.  The most important ingredient to a well-balanced and successful life is to put God first into our lives.

I find that when there are times that I am idle (not too often), I turn my attention to God and ask Him what I should be working on today.  And when I am over-working myself, I ask God how to organize and prioritize my life so that every moment matters and is maximized.  And by the grace of God, everything always seemed to get done.