JANUARY 23, 2006

A Clean Desk!
by Pastor George Van Alstine

Alice, Connie and I had to clear all the accumulated stuff from our desks in preparation for the office evacuation necessary for installing the new carpeting. For me this was a major trauma—code red emergency!

Right now, my desk is free of all debris, clean and polished. If you’d like to witness this phenomenon, you may schedule a viewing by calling 555-1212. Act quickly; this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I’ve always considered my organizational style to be “meaningful mess.â€?

Years ago, I had a sign on my desk that read


It made me feel better amid the chaos. Unfortunately, it was soon buried by papers and folders, and it disappeared from view never to be found again.

By contrast, I knew a high-level corporate executive who invited me to his office for a talk. His desk was immaculate, tastefully appointed and occupied only by a telephone, a pen and the one file-folder he was currently using. I remarked about it. He said it was his secretary’s job to make sure that things never accumulated on his desk, and that it would be fresh and clean every morning. I didn’t see her desk—the mess may have been there.

A life may be clean or messy. Some people’s lives are very well-organized, everything in its place. This may be an indication of great efficiency and productivity. Such a person should be applauded.

But some people have very predictable, well-organized lives simply because they just don’t have much to organize. They limit themselves to those activities they know they can handle without stretching much, and they don’t take risks. As a result, they may not be using all the gifts God has given them, and may not be reaching out to people they could be helping.

Jesus told a story about this. A rich man went on a long journey, and he gave each of his three servants a significant amount of money to take care of (“talentsâ€?– Matthew 25:14-30). Two of the servants invested the money and earned interest. This probably took a lot of time, effort and paperwork, so their “desksâ€? were probably messy. The third servant kept a neat “deskâ€? by hiding the money in a safe place. He thought that by avoiding risk he could protect the master’s money. But the master was not impressed by the neatness of his “desk.â€? He didn’t want the money protected; he wanted it invested in something useful and productive.

Maybe I am stretching the meaning of this parable to justify my disorderly desk. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to conclude from this teaching that Jesus prefers a messy, productive life over a non-productive life, no matter how neat and secure it is.