Abby is taking care of the Austin's dogs these days. The Austins live down the road from us and have been out of town for a few days, so they asked Abby to take care of their three Yorkies and one black lab. I guess she did a good job caring for them while they were gone during Christmas and so they asked her to do the job again. That's what happens when we take care of someone else's stuff well.
I've been amazed at how diligent Abby has been about caring for these pets that are not hers. During Christmas she got up on her own every morning at 6:45 to walk down the street in the cold and give one of the dogs a pill that he needed at seven in the morning and night. She would then spend an hour or so there, letting the dogs run around and cleaning up after any messes they had made. Several times she came home to report that one dog in particular kept intentionally falling into the ornamental pond in the backyard. I don't know how she knew it was intentionally falling in, but somehow she did. At any rate, she would then feel the need to bathe the dog so it wouldn't smell like pond water. I thought that was quite noble of her. I'm not sure I would have been that responsible myself.
This time around one of the dogs has had some issues, if you catch my drift. Like it's issuing something in between Abby's care-taking visits. Thus Abby has to clean up the issue every time she goes to the house. Last night she even brought the dogs' towels home to wash, at which I told her she was on her own. I wasn't washing those towels. No problem, she said. And she washed them. Miracle.
We have pets of our own. They drive me crazy. They are actually mine and Abby's dogs and we both argue over who is going to let them out each time they start pawing at the door or whining. Our dogs love to go out. Not because they want to stay outside, but because they think they deserve a treat every time they come in and they love treats. They don't get a treat every time they come in, but I suppose they figure the odds are good and so they beg to go out constantly. I often have to pray about taking care of my dogs during my quiet time. I did that just this morning in fact. That's how badly I don't like taking care of them sometimes.
I'm not sure Abby enjoys taking care of someone else's dogs any better than she does our own, but she sure has cared for them well. She goes to their house on time every day, several times a day, and does the job thoroughly.
I don't normally have to take Abby down the road to the Austin's, but in the cold of the last two mornings I have driven her there before school and waited in the warm car while she goes in to care for the pets. This morning when I saw her come out the door momentarily to put a trash bag in the garbage can I knew she must have had a big mess to clean up again. But as I looked out the frosty car window I could tell she was doing the job with a pep in her step, very matter-of-factly, without a grudge. Several minutes later when she got in the car, she didn't complain. The job was done.
Abby is being a good steward. She has been entrusted with someone's dogs and she has taken care of them well. Like the good and faithful steward in Matthew 24:45-47, Abby has proven herself to be trustworthy with even more responsibilities. She's taken good care of those dogs and their owners will be pleased.
Those dogs don't belong to Abby, but she has cared for them almost more diligently than she cares for her own. I'm not sure they've been any easier to care for or any more of a joy to be around, but she knew they belonged to someone else and she wanted to please the Austins.
When we know the things we care for belong to someone else we're actually more diligent to care for them well than if they belong to us. Go figure. But the principle should cause us to reflect on how we treat all that has been entrusted to us.
The problem is, we don't see our things as belonging to someone else. We see them as ours. My body...mine. My home....mine. My children....mine. My money.....mine all mine.
All that we have in our possession has actually been entrusted to us temporarily by Someone Else. And we've been given responsibilities along with those trusts.
My body? First Corinthians 6:19-20 tells me my body does not belong to me at all, but is the home of the Holy Spirit. I've been bought with a price and I'm to honor God, the rightful owner, with my body.
My children? Psalm 127 tells me they are a gift from the Lord. But Proverbs tells me over and over that I am responsible for teaching them well and raising them according to the Owner's directions.
My home? Psalm 127 also tells me that my home must be built according to the Lord's instructions or else it will crumble. It's His after all.
My money? His. My ministry? definitely His. All that I "own" is actually His.
This morning as I watched Abby care for someone else's animals from the comfort of my warm car, I wondered, "If I were to do a better job of remembering Who my stuff really belongs to, would I also do a better job of caring for it?"
If I remember that the world belongs to God, perhaps I'll do a better job of conserving water, leaving less of a carbon footprint on the earth, and keeping my little corner of the world clean and undisturbed.
If I remember that my kids belong to God, perhaps I'll be more committed to praying for them, teaching them His Word, and raising them to obey His ways.
If I remember that my marriage in fact belongs to God, perhaps I'll tend to it more carefully and value it more highly.
If I remember that my resources belong to God, perhaps I'll use them more wisely, think before I buy, and care for the things I have in my possession.
If I remember that my body belongs to God, perhaps I'll eat a little better, be more diligent about exercising, and dress in a way that draws more attention to God than to me.
And so today, I'm going to try to remember that while it's easy to abuse those things we take for granted, we're much more diligent with other people's things. And I have nothing free and clear. I'm responsible for Someone Else's stuff. And I want that Someone to say to me, sort of like the Austins have said to Abby, "Well done. You're a good and faithful steward."