When we were first married, my wife and I went on a weekend camping trip with my best friend, Tom, and his wife at a local lake. We decided to rent canoes for the afternoon. As our leisurely canoe ride ended, my wife and I rowed up to the dock and stepped out of our canoe. Tom and his wife pulled up next to our canoe intending to step out of their canoe into our canoe and then on to the dock. Tom’s wife got out fine. But when Tom put his first foot into our canoe the shifting of his weight caused his canoe to begin drifting away and he found himself in the hilariously untenable position of trying to continue standing in two canoes moving away from each other. Unable to control the drift, he ended up doing the splits with hands flailing just before plunging head first into the lake – his feet still hooked over the side of each canoe. We all laughed until we cried at the slap-stick scene before us.
As comical as this scene is to imagine, I think many of us, quite unaware of it, might be in an equally untenable position – trying to straddle two different canoes that are moving in different directions. If you have ever been in a canoe, you know that trying to stand up in one canoe can be enough of a challenge. Trying to stand up in two canoes, as Tom discovered, is double trouble.
We have two Kingdoms – our spiritual kingdom and our material kingdom. And just as Tom found himself unsuccessfully straddling those two canoes, we too can find ourselves unsuccessfully attempting to straddle our two kingdoms – one foot planted in each even while they continue to drift apart – leaving us facing our own double trouble.
The Bible offers several metaphors to expose the untenable position of attempting to live a contradictory double life and the trouble that comes from trying to straddle our two competing “canoes.”
James 1:8 tells us that “a double-minded man (is) unstable in all his ways.” (Sounds like Tom in the two canoes, doesn’t it?) David declares in Psalm 119:113, “I hate the double-minded…” James adds in 4:8, “…purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
In Psalm 12:2 David provides a different metaphor – that of being double-hearted. In I Timothy 3:8 Paul describes those who are double-tongued. All these phrases describe the contradictory position of attempting to simultaneously and successfully keep one foot in our spiritual canoe and the other foot in our material canoe. In doing so, we are facing double trouble.
Jesus said it this way, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus is expressing the impossibility of trying to successfully straddle these two canoes.
Here is how straddling these two canoes can functionally play out in our lives. Our material possessions (time, talents, treasures, toys, etc.) are in our material canoe. And on occasion, we are asked, compelled, coerced or convicted to give some of our stuff from our material canoe to our spiritual canoe, to be used for spiritual purposes. When we transfer some of our material assets over to the spiritual canoe, it is recorded, reported and/or recognized.
Contrast this picture with an alternative picture. We wholly and solely live in only one canoe – our spiritual canoe. At our conversion we willingly transferred everything we were and everything we had – and I mean everything – from our material canoe to our spiritual canoe and we abandoned our material canoe. We sang “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.” And really meant all – everything we have and everything we are is His. We were all in the spiritual canoe. (Not that any of our material stuff was ever really ours in the first place, but we did finally acknowledge that we had wrongly confiscated it and we were now willingly returning it to the rightful Owner.) [See Psalms 24:1; 50:10-12.]
From that day forward it has no longer been a question of what will we transfer from our material canoe to our spiritual canoe. Everything we possess and everything we ever will possess is already in our spiritual canoe to be used for Kingdom purposes whenever and however it is needed by our sovereign King. Let me ask you to think back. Did you indeed surrender and transfer all the possessions in your material canoe now and forever into your spiritual canoe when you surrendered to Christ? Did you really “surrender all?”
If the answer is yes, then your giving decisions are not really giving decisions. They could more accurately be described as deployment decisions. The term giving carries with it the implication that we are taking something from our material canoe and “giving” it to our spiritual canoe to be used for spiritual purposes. The term deployment, to the contrary, simply focuses on how these resources already in the spiritual canoe will be utilized to produce maximum impact and benefit for the King to whom these assets already belong.
If we attempt to live with one foot in our spiritual canoe and the other one in our material canoe, we will find ourselves, double-minded, double-hearted, double-tongued and with a severe case of double-vision. We will indeed find ourselves continually living with double trouble.
It is interesting to note that right after Jesus tells us that we should not lay up treasures for ourselves in our material canoe, but we should instead lay up treasures in our spiritual canoe, and right before He tells us that we cannot simultaneously live in two different canoes (God and riches), He adds a powerful illustration in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
It is impossible for our two eyes to simultaneously focus on two different images. Have you ever intentionally crossed your eyes? If you have you know that when you point your eyes in different directions, you can’t see anything clearly with either eye. We cannot focus on both our spiritual and our material canoes at the same time and if we do we will find, like my friend Tom, that we are in a compromising position that can never be maintained nor can it ever be totally fulfilling.
Where are You Standing?
Ask yourself, “Where am I standing right now? Am I trying to straddle these two different canoes, hoping to enjoy the best that both canoes have to offer?” If the answer is, “Yes,” then you are indeed in double trouble. May I suggest that the superior option for us, if we have not already done so, is to transfer everything we have into one canoe – our spiritual canoe. In doing so, something glorious will happen. We will find ourselves becoming singled-minded, single-hearted, single-tongued and single-visioned. We will now be single-focused on what God wants us to do with what we are carrying of His material things in His spiritual canoe to be used for His divine purposes for His ultimate glory. If we get into the right canoe, the spiritual canoe, heading in the right direction with an eternal perspective in mind, we will experience what Paul describes in I Timothy 6:19 as “life indeed.” Let’s think: Double trouble or life indeed? Not really a very difficult choice, is it? Let me encourage you, starting today, be all in your spiritual canoe!
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E. G. “Jay” Link is the President of Stewardship Ministries, a teaching, training, mentoring and content ministry working with churches and nonprofit leaders to equip them with the biblical knowledge and training resources needed to serve all ages and all economic levels of believers to effectively live their lives as good and faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to them. He is the author of three books, “Spiritual Thoughts on Material Things: Thirty Days of Food for Thought,” “To Whom Much is Given: Navigating the Ten Life Dilemmas Affluent Christians Face” and “Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter.”