Thoreau’s Indian and Honoring God

Reflections from Walden

I recently was reading Walden, by Henry David Thoreau and came across a story which struck me as familiar.  As he often tells stories about his time at Walden to illustrate life’s many intricacies, I thought it fitting to use one of his stories as an allegory for how I see us working to serve God.

Thoreau tells of an Indian who came up with the idea of making and then selling baskets to the wealthy citizens of the town.  He was diligent in his labor and produced a number of fine baskets.  He then proceeded with confidence to the house of a rich lawyer.  When the man answered the knock on the door, he was presented with a fine assortment of fine looking baskets.  After looking through the different baskets, the lawyer informed him that he wasn’t interested in purchasing any baskets at the time.  The Indian, confused by the rejection gathered his wares and left, but when he reached the gate he offered up a parting shot, “What?  Do you mean to starve us?”

When I read the story, my first reaction was likely similar to yours – “No.  The rich lawyer isn’t trying to starve you – he just isn’t interested in buying your baskets.”  Then I read Thoreau’s comment,

He had not discovered that it was necessary for him to make it worth the other’s while to buy them…

Thoreau, Henry David . Walden

It reminded me of ministry, and how often we find ourselves trying to “do good.”  Just like the Indian, we put ourselves to work in ministry, we are industrious and seek to do the right thing, and often times they are good things.  Yet every step along the way we need to ask ourselves the question, “Is it what God wants of us?  Are we seeking to do good, just to do something, or are we seeking to honor God?”

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 6:33

We need to seek God’s kingdom and his will in all we do – the rest will follow if we are on track with that.  As we prepare to return to Ghana this winter, pray with us that we are seeking to honor God and that we will be used to usher in his kingdom.  All the rest should follow that.