Burton’s Mantra

My friend and former pastor Burton Purvis used to have a mantra he would repeat over and over to us:

Proper rations at proper times.


Burton at his bestThis was his working definition of stewardship. Because I had what I believed to be a superior definition, I would be endlessly irritated whenever Burton would repeat the phrase.

Then one day in my Bible reading I ran across this:

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time?” —Luke 12:42

Wow. I could do a whole blog post—and probably should—on teachableness, humility, and openness to differing ideas. But as this phrase has rattled around in my head the last few weeks, I can’t get away from the central truth of Jesus’s words and how they apply to my relationships and responsibilities.

You see, as a colleague at work, or a husband or dad, or a pastor-teacher, or a Facebook friend—it isn’t necessary or wise to drop the whole load of what I think I’ve learned or what I’m passionate about (or what currently upsets me) on the people around me.

Even the things that come into my head from God himself.

As my friend Woods Watson used to say—and I’m paraphrasing from a very long time ago here—discernment is for the purpose of intercession, not for sharing.

One of the great challenges for me personally is to regulate what I’m sharing, whether with a friend in The Real World or a friend I know only through Facebook, so that I’m sharing only what is necessary for that friend at that moment.

As I look over the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s conversations, the way he approached different people at different times, I can see concrete examples of this principle at work.

We need filters in our lives in at least two directions:

  1. The filters in that allow us to be open to the ideas of others without polluting our thought processes and therefore our values.
  2. The filters out that keep us from doing real harm to others, even when we are speaking stuff that’s true, but that they’re not ready to process in real time.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. —Ephesians 4:29

According to their needs. Not mine.


This post was adapted from a Facebook status update written on September 29, 2012.

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