i) Keep For Others
“The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.”—2 Timothy 4:13.
“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.” ―Lillian Hellman.
The Integrity of a Custodian
The apostle Paul implies in Galatians 4 that a father can entrust inheritance for his underage son into the hands of custodians. As long as the heir is a child, there may be not much difference between him and a servant. He may not even know that he owns the estate. This scenario provides a perfect opportunity for integrity of the custodian to be tested. A person whose integrity is wanting may swindle the property of the underage son.
It is one thing to keep something for yourself and it is another to keep it for somebody else. When we keep our own things, sometimes we can stray into them and use them prematurely. This may not be a good sign because it shows that we have chosen to break our own resolve, but there is no one who would call us to account.
We may not even feel convicted before God that we are doing something wrong. This is not the case if we are keeping something for somebody. In this latter case, we will be sinning if we decide to use what was left in our custody, unless of course we ask the owner to allow us use it. There are also cases where the owner may allow us to use for the time being what was left in our custody. The danger with the latter case is that for some people, after using something for some time, they get attached to it to the extent that they possess it. When the owner comes back to get it, the custodian would feel so bad. They may even refuse to surrender it back. They think that the owner is mean to come back to repossess what they have possessed and even thanked God for.
It is not advisable to budget with what is not ours. We must resist all the temptations to get attached to what is for somebody else. The Luos of Kenya have a say: Dher ariemba inyiedho kin’giyo rangach (As you milk a cow that is in your temporary custody, always watch the gate). The idea of watching the gate is because the owner may come for his cow at any time. In other words, one must not get attached to the cow that is not his. It is a common practice in Luoland, Kenya that somebody can give his friend a cow to tend for some unspecified period. During this period, the one tending the cow is allowed to milk it and use or sell the milk as he wishes. The rule under this arrangement is that the owner should get his cow whenever he wants, with or without notice. Some people are known to be very reluctant to release the cow when the owner finally comes for it.
Quite often, there are many things we may have in our custody but which belong to others. It is important that we take good care of them so that the owner may get them intact when he comes for them.
The things we usually find in our custody are either those that were left deliberately for us to keep or those that were forgotten at our place. The apostle Paul had left his cloke with Carpus. When he needed it, he instructed Timothy to take it along with him and bring it (2 Tim. 4:13). I believe Carpus had taken good care of it. It is not clear whether the books and the parchments were also left with him. Books have a tendency of disappearing. We lend a book to somebody who in turn lends it to another person—it continues like that until the book cannot be traced. I can’t tell how many books I have ‘lost’ in this manner.
There are cases where a dying father can entrust the inheritance and the will for his son to somebody. The inheritance would be turned over to the son when the latter reaches a specified age. This is where the test is. Anybody who fears God will deliver everything without holding back anything. There is a temptation to want to hold back something ‘small’ and justify it as a payment for having taken care if what one was entrusted with.