Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Practice of Self Regulation

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth
to quit being so full of
themselves and so obsessed with money,
which is here today and gone tomorrow.
Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the
riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping
others, to be extravagantly generous.
If they do that, they’ll build
a treasure that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

— I Timothy 6:17-19, The Message

Irving Wasserman was on a mission. He was single handedly going to erase the national debt by building an endowment. He saved nearly all of his disability checks and bought government bonds until he had accrued half a million dollars. Before he passed away in 2000 he set up a revocable living trust to give his estate to Breakthrough. Despite his disability, Irving still holds the record for the largest one time gift to Breakthrough from an individual.

Irving was the most frugal man I have ever met. He asked us to move his stove to the alley so he wouldn’t have to pay the gas bill for the pilot light. When he found coins on the street he immediately walked them to the bank. “I can’t trust myself with money,” he replied when I questioned him about deposits for five cents or a quarter.

One day I invited Irving to my house for dinner. Since he was a diabetic I purchased special sugar-free ice cream bars for him. He ate one with great pleasure. At the end of the evening I gave him the rest of the package of ice cream bars to take home.

The next morning he was pounding on my door. “Here, take these,” he yelled as he thrust the ice cream bars into my hands. “They make me want to have them all the time!”

His words have stuck with me through the years as I have pondered my own life style. As I have eaten at finer restaurants and stayed at nicer hotels, I realize, “They make me want to have them all the time.”

There is power in learning to practice self regulation, to simplify our life styles so we can do more for the kingdom. Instead of leading a lifestyle of consumerism and teaching our kids to follow in our footsteps, we can leave a legacy of changed lives and community transformation. We may not be as frugal as Irving, but there are likely ways that all of us could do more to regulate our consumption in order to be more generous and helpful to others. Though he was challenged in many ways, Irving Wasserman left a legacy.

What’s your legacy?