In the men’s restroom of a Kansas City restaurant I used to frequent, the following instructions appeared on the hot-air dryer near the sink: (1) Shake excess water from hands; (2) Push button and release; (3) Rub hands briskly under nozzle; (4) Dryer stops automatically. Beneath these words, someone had taken a ballpoint pen and etched in the metal paint: (5) Wipe hands on pants.

While I have some ungracious thoughts about vandals, I have to confess a chuckle about number five. Some smart-aleck shared an insight that may have been more useful than the manufacturer’s own best effort at instruction. Who knows where the wise guy is today. Selling towels in a bed and bath store? Writing operational manuals for restroom soap dispensers? It doesn’t much matter. The point here is, his words lift up the value of being resourceful.

Resourcefulness is one of the touchstones for achieving greatness. Sometimes in life we must do what it takes to adjust to adverse conditions. We discover what really works when the chips are down. We turn to a new way when expected things fail us. Beautiful signs of greatness often emerge as we come face-to-face with overwhelming odds and find ways to cope or overcome.

The shortest little girl on a first-grade soccer team uses her speed and agility to avoid getting pushed around by much larger teammates. A stroke victim discovers new expressions, new words, and new gratitude for making sense of each day. A widow thinks creatively on just how to stretch that slim Social Security check. An executive who’s dogged by the limited meaning of management decisions slips out quietly each Thursday to tutor underprivileged kids in the city. RESOURCEFULNESS. It’s a virtue to which we probably give insufficient attention.

Jesus is mindful of those who know resourcefulness. When a paralyzed man could not be brought close enough to him because of the density of the crowd, a few people knocked their heads together and devised a plan. Luke tells us they climbed atop the roof of the house in which Jesus stood. They cut a hole in that roof. (The New Jerusalem Bible translation suggests it was a tile roof, so perhaps they simply moved some tiles.) Either way, these carriers got their friend lowered to Jesus for healing. And whose faith did the Lord praise? Not the man with the infirmity. The resourceful characters who may have ruined someone else’s roof received the acclaim. They evidently understood what was more important than anything else at that moment in time. Jesus Christ.

Resourceful thinking is fresh thinking that doesn’t capitulate to the pressures of life. Sometimes it means discarding some old rules (and in the case of Luke 5, discarding shingles from your neighbor’s roof) for the sake of beholding something more important.

Autumn has pressures of its own that call for resourceful living. Farmers squeeze in their harvest on shortened days. Quarterbacks scramble for life. Kids hunker down for that upcoming report card. The car checks in for antifreeze. Even squirrels have to try to find a new way to remember where this year’s acorns get buried. It’s all about resourceful living.

Think and Pray

Are you stuck in the same routine, confined by the same limitations on your time, wallet or abilities? Let 2020 be the year to see with new eyes and think in fresh ways. Ask God to give you a creative approach to an old issue.

Lord, You are Creator God – the ultimate innovator and originator. Help me to be resourceful with the tools and talents You’ve given me so I can be most effective for the purposes You’ve called me to. Help me especially be mindful of ways to share the gospel with those who don’t know You. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.


© Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Reprinted with permission. The Rev. Peter W. Marty is senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa. This article appeared in the fall 1997 issue of Faith in Action, and it was reprinted with permission. Visit Rev. Peter W. Marty’s website at