Waste Not, Want Not

Written by Carl Greene

September 8, 2021

You and I waste a lot. In fact, we waste more than we currently measure. The result is that we are in chronic want, though do not know the cause. Our wasteful behavior is simply not in the areas we usually look.

I have heard waste not, want not at the meal table more than a few times. I have heard the phrase dropped into discussion several times amidst financial considerations. But, we do not use the phrase nearly enough when it comes to leadership development. Especially our own.

The phrase waste not, want not has been around a long time, like 250 years long time. Perhaps its continued popularity indicates that we are slow to learn the lesson about wastefulness. But the statement is tame, there was an earlier phrase that was even more direct, going back to the 1570s:

willful waste makes woeful want.[1]

Here is our willful waste: we do not treat our leadership skills as gifts from God to steward. We treat the leadership potential of people in our church as ‘an extra’ to invest in if we have time after doing the short-term tasks. We treat our own leadership roles in church and within our families as crumbs to gather up and use if there is time at the end of a busy week. Investing in long-term leadership growth is not a good thing—it is a necessary undertaking to avoid willful waste.

How many times do we lament a lack of leadership or question the hope of a next generation of leaders in our churches? What if the problem is not “those people,” but our willful waste of not investing in emerging leaders that have potential, or even harnessing our own leadership skills? When we do not invest in leaders and emerging leaders within our churches and families, it is willful waste. The fruit of anemic leadership development is a woeful want of leaders in the years to come.

The grapevine in our backyard has been loaded with grapes this year. They are sweet (well, for Concord grapes they are sweet), ripe, and ready for use. The catch is, that if we do not harvest them now and begin the process of preserving them, they will be lost for this season. It takes intentionality to do the grape harvest—and to be honest, the grapes really need some refining to get them into yummy food status. If we do not act now, they will wither on the vine and remind us of the opportunity that we missed.

Willful waste makes woeful want. Leadership development matters in our churches and families. Who are you investing in today? Who have you invited to invest in you? God has given us tremendous potential when it comes to leadership resources for today and tomorrow. But, are we practicing willful waste as His stewards?

If you have questions about how to invest in emerging leaders within your church, please contact the SDB Director of History and Education, Nick Kersten at nkersten@seventhdaybaptist.org.

Photo Courtesy of Sam Greene.

[1] https://grammarist.com/proverb/waste-not-want-not/

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