Egypt was a land that God chose to be a refuge for His people. The Children of Israel sojourned there during famine (Gen. 46). It doesn’t help to argue that why didn’t God just provide food for His people in the safety of their territory than making them migrate into Egypt where they were later made slaves.
We have to be rest assured that if God has blessed our country in one way or another, He will bring people from different parts of the world to partake of ‘our blessings’. Mistreating the people God has sent to our land for a refuge may turn a country that God meant for a refuge to be a symbol of backsliding. Is it difficult to understand that the reason God blesses is that the blessed may be a blessing to others?
ii) Underproduction where resources are available and conditions of production favourable
When resources are available and conditions favourable for production, man is guilty of negligence if he doesn’t produce or let those who would produce do so. Because of greed, there are big chunks of arable land that are hoarded away by people who don’t put them to use. Because of poor government food policy, some countries experience food shortages when they have resources that could be used to produce a lot of food.
With competent and honest resource management, even places with drought spells can be irrigated so that people don’t have to starve in an event of rain failing.
There are also cases where people are just lazy. The Bible says “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Prov. 18:9). These are the same people being advised to take a lesson from insects.
“Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.” —Proverbs 6:6-11.
The apostle Paul also exhorted Thessalonians saying,
“For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” —2 Thessalonians 3:10-12.
iii) Poor distribution of either the ready products or the resources for production
George Washington had a man in his cabinet who was totally bald. No hair on his head. But he had a very long beard flowing down to his knees. To illustrate a point, Washington brought him up in a meeting. He pointed to him and said, “this man has a problem: overproduction and poor distribution.”
One time I watched over television when crops were being dumped in one of the European countries because there was overproduction. Meanwhile, people were starving to death in some parts of Africa. The reason it is called overproduction is because the producer doesn’t have place or immediate use for the produce.
The so-called overproduced crops, for example, can be distributed to those who need it. It is never too expensive to save lives. Jesus paid with His blood to save lives from spiritual death—the price was infinitely high but He paid it. Mankind can pay with his material resources to save lives from physical death—the price can be materially high but he can pay it. A good steward must find the worth of life and use whatever is at his disposal to save and preserve life and prepare it for eternity.
iv) Wastage by those who have more than enough
One of the most lamentable problems of stewardship is wastage. There are lots of foods being thrown. I have seen people throwing food in a way that I would conservatively estimate that ten percent of their food budget ends up in the dustbin. It is not biblical to waste. If even Christ, who could multiply food, once commanded that the residues, yes, residues, be collected, how much more should we be careful not to waste.
“And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.” —John 6:11-13 (note the italics).
The fragments were gathered up not just to clean up the place but so that there was no wastage—think about it! Isn’t it a big deal that the owner of the universe discourages wastage of even the fragment? So the prophet Ezekiel asks: “Is it a small thing for you to tread upon the residue?” (Ezek. 34:18). We had seen earlier that: “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster” (Prov. 18:9). The idea is that a wasteful person and a lazy person are of the same thread.
It is a paradox that even people who don’t have enough would still waste the little they have. It may surprise many if the cumulative value of the things they waste were computed.
The following are some of the common areas where a lot of wastages are experienced:
There is a Kiswahili saying that goes: bandu bandu huisha gogo (constant chipping of a log depletes it). What bandu bandu huisha gogo does to the one who will not spare, haba na haba hujaza kibaba does to the one who will spare little by little. It doesn’t matter how big a reserve is, little by little chipping aways without replenishing will deplete it. The small take-aways are more dangerous because they are taken for granted while their cumulative impact is destined to build into something big.
It is also important to mention that wastage is not only by throwing. It can also be through misuse and misuse include indulgence. We have to be strict in the way we utilize what God gives us for our consumption. Even when we perceive that something is for our personal utilization, we must be careful not to indulge because there is actually a thin line between the different departments of stewardship. What this means is that the moment we realise that we still have more after we have utilized what is reasonable, it may be a time to think sharing, investing, saving, etc.
A proverb counsels: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Generally, this proverb calls attention to the fact that everything costs something. It is a warning to people who might jump into something without considering that there might be a hidden cost. It is in the same league with, think twice when the deal is too good.