Sponges and Watering-cans
Charles Naylor, 1920
It was Jesus' custom to draw spiritual lessons from the things surrounding him — and by some similitude, to impress upon his hearers a profitable truth. In the same way, we may get many valuable thoughts from the simple things of every-day life. The articles mentioned in the heading bring to my mind pictures of two classes of people.
The most noticeable feature of a sponge is its power of absorbing a liquid and retaining it within itself. If dipped in or placed in contact with a liquid, it will absorb several times its weight.
Some people are like sponges. They go to church meetings and drink in the truth time after time. They love it. It delights their hearts. They love the singing, the preaching, the testimonies, and the prayers. They absorb and absorb — but, like the sponge, they give out nothing. The sponge gives up what it has taken in, only when it is subjected to pressure. So it is with these human sponges. While they love to listen — they have to be urged to do anything. They only do something when they feel duty-bound to do so, or when they are urged by somebody else. They rarely pray in meeting. They are among the last in all such things. To go where a congregation are mostly sponges, is to find a few having all to do — and to find a dull, insipid meeting.
Wet sponges will not burn. Neither will the fire of God burn in a congregation of sponges. A preacher may be full of fire — but he cannot set sponges burning. Do you have to be urged to do anything? Are you ready to pray or do whatever you can in the meeting? Do you love to talk to people about salvation — or do you speak of it only when someone else starts the conversation? Do you have to be constantly urged to do your duty? Are you a sponge?
A watering-can is different. It too will take in to its full capacity; but, as soon as it is turned in the right position, it freely gives out again. Streams of cooling, refreshing water fall on the thirsty plants. The drooping flowers raise again their heads to blush in beauty, and their fragrance floats out on the balmy air once more. A delicious coolness surrounds the place, and we delight to be there.
While the sponge represents the selfish class; the watering-can represents the open-hearted, cheerful giver — one who is ready to pass on the good things and who in return reaps the promise, "He who waters — shall be watered also himself." If the watering-can is emptied, does not the gardener fill it again, and with fresh water? So, if we are pouring out to others — then we shall be filled anew. We shall not be empty — but fresh and rich in our souls with the water of life. The great Gardener fills us, that we may pour out to others, not simply that we may be filled ourselves. It is said of Jesus that he "emptied himself". He became poor — that through his poverty, we should be made rich.
O beloved, God wants us to be "ready unto every good work." Do not be a sponge! Do not have to be pressed into duty. Do not live in yourself and for yourself. Be no longer content with drinking in. Begin to pour out. Be ready to do your part in meeting, yes everywhere. Be ready to water others. The world is indeed "thirsty ground."
A sponge, if left to itself, gives out by evaporation until it becomes hard and dry; and in such a state it is useless. Many people have drunk in the truth and delighted in it — but instead of pouring out to others, that they might be refilled — they have just given out by evaporation until they have become dry and formal and lifeless. That is the usual result with spiritual sponges.
Who are those who are fat and flourishing, those who have showers of blessings? Are they the sponges? Nay, truly. "Give — and it shall be given." "It is more blessed to give [to be a watering-can] than to receive [to be a sponge]."
Now, face the question squarely. Which of these things are you? Look over the past year. Have you been ready for duty? Is your testimony always ready for the opportunity? Are you ready for service of any kind? If you have been a sponge — then quit being one. Quit now. Ask God to make something better of you. If we are not now sponges, we can soon become so by neglect of duty. The only safe way is to keep pouring out!