Small Cups and Broad Saucers
As the Sabbath ebbs away each Saturday night, Jewish families prepare for the productive work week ahead by singing the joyful Havdalah service […] recited over a cup of wine that runs over into the saucer beneath.
This overflowing cup symbolizes the intention to produce during the week ahead not only sufficient to fill one’s own cup, but also an excess that will allow overflow for the benefit of others. In other words, I am obliged to first fill my cup and then continue pouring as it were, so that I will have sufficient to give away to others, thus helping to jump-start their own efforts.
I absolutely love this symbolism. It’s a simple act that speaks volumes about work ethic and generosity.
Work is a blessing. Our ability to work, our talents and the skills we develop, the wages we earn and everything that stems from them, are all thanks to God. To extend the symbolism, the wine is delivered to us by the wine-maker. Honestly, he gives us more than we need. It’s available to us, and all we have to do is exercise obedience and pour it all out. We’re blessed with work so that others can receive from our overflow. How can we do anything but follow through?
How can we, indeed.
We still manage to screw it up, don’t we? I know I’ve failed at it in a couple of big ways.
One way are those times when my work ethic isn’t anywhere near up to where it should be. I’ll pour out just enough to eke by. I can come up with all sorts of excuses for it, but the actual reason is always the same. I’m being lazy and irresponsible with my time. I don’t exercise discipline, and instead I suffer regret. That’s ugly.
The other big way that I, and a lot of people, have failed is something I’m going to refer to as poor “cup management.” See, when more wine is presented to us, we have a tendency to head to our cabinets and break out a larger cup. As our income grows, we’ll increase our expenses.
Before we know it, we’re bathing in wine while our overflow hasn’t grown at all. Or worse, our “cup” gets so large that there isn’t enough wine to spill over anymore. Then we find ourselves struggling with the deficit, and we have to deal with growing debt, and no one is blessed.
Each one of us needs to take a long, hard look at our cup.
I’m not saying we need to neglect our family to help others. I would never say that. No, we need to know exactly what is needed to care and provide for our family. We need to know what is required to feed them and clothe them and provide shelter for them. We have to keep our eyes and ears open for the things that will help them grow into the men and women that they’re supposed to become. We’re required to understand that all of those things come at a cost, in both time and money, and know those costs well. If we don’t, then that’s just another variation of poor cup management.
But, after honestly evaluating your needs, then it’s time to examine your generosity and what it says about your trust in the wine-maker. How broad, and how deep is your saucer, and how glad are you to be filling it?
So, I’m issuing myself these three challenges. You might consider them, too.
1. Have a smaller cup. My family will craft and keep a monthly budget. While accounting for each dollar, my wife and I will have the chance to evaluate the value that each expenditure brings to our family. What needs to change? What costs too much? What can be cut?
2. Have a broader saucer. We’ll find at least one new opportunity to be generous every month. Opening my eyes and seeing the needs of others has to become involuntary for me. Meeting those needs out of my familiy’s overflow is why it’s there.
3. Have faith. We’ll give away more than we think we’re able to. Giving should be a sacrificial act that reflects your trust in God. Are we giving enough that he has to be present in our lives? In Proverbs it says…
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.
We should never find ourselves so full that we’re questioning the presence of God.
So, what about your cup? Are you managing it well? Does it allow you to fill your saucer?
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