Taking Inventory

Taking Inventory

by Bob Burridge ©2018
Psalm 139:23-24

Taking inventory is one of those tedious but important jobs. But it’s important in a business to know what you have in stock. In retail stores, what you haven’t sold yet is money you spent without making anything back. You also need to be sure you have things your customers will want to buy. And if there’s something that stays on the shelf and nobody buys it, then you need to know not to order more, or find ways to promote it better.

If you have a company that repairs or makes things, you need to be sure you have the needed supplies on hand to do your work. And the government wants to know what you own and what it’s worth so they can adjust their tax roles.

In the old days, somebody had to do it all by hand. You had to have someone walk up and down aisles in a warehouse or store and count everything and write the results in a record book of some kind. Then bar codes simplified it so you could just scan everything to load it into the computer.

There’s now a technology called RFID – Radio Frequency IDentification. Everything is tagged with a label that reflect a radio signal back to a scanner. You just have to walk down the aisle with a reading device and it counts what’s there. Some retail stores and food chains have been experimenting with this since 2003.

Eventually the impact could change the way we shop. You could just push your cart through the check out and it would know everything in your cart. It tells you what you owe, and when you approve it, it scans your card or phone. Then it deactivates what you bought so it won’t charge you again. That’s it — fast check out! It would also immediately update the store’s inventory, and when it gets low submit an order for more.

And shoplifters beware – it would know exactly what you hide in your pocket or purse or under your jacket that hasn’t been paid for.

Inventory is important for us as individuals too. On the financial side, it’s good to know what you have, and what you owe. That’s why you look over your bank statements, watch your investments, and read the statements from your mortgage company and other creditors.

But there’s another inventory we need to take regularly. You need to do an accounting of what’s in your heart. You need to regularly evaluate what’s there and see what needs to be done about it.

The end of the year is a good time to take inventory of your life. The impression you give others or the image you have of yourself may not be entirely honest. What does God see when he looks at your heart, as he watches your life”? He knows the very thoughts and motives behind all you say and do.

The most devastating lie is what you tell yourself. The most costly thing you hide, is what you hide from yourself. But God knows it all. Nothing’s hidden from him. It’s like that RFID scanner – you may think it’s hidden as you walk by – but it’s not.

We each need to be regularly taking inventory of things as they really are in our lives and in the world we influence. Often we aren’t aware of things that need to change. This is why we turn to God in prayer that he will search our hearts.

In Psalm 139 David asked God to help him take inventory of his heart. In verses 23-24 he prayed,

23. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
24. And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

It’s interesting that David would ask God to search him when in verse 1 of this same Psalm he just admitted that it had already been done. There he said, “… O LORD, you have searched me and known me!” David didn’t believe God still had something to learn that was hidden from him. His Lord always knew what was in his heart. But David wanted his Creator and Redeemer to search him for his own sake. To let him know what’s there. He wanted to root out any evil that was in him so he could walk in ways honoring to God.

There was the time, after grievous sins, that David was confronted by Nathan God’s prophet. David had gone to great lengths to hide his sin with Bathsheba and his plot that killed her husband. No one seemed to know or suspect him. He hid the guilt deep in his heart. He probably came up with all sorts of justifications and excuses for what he’d done. But God knew.

Nathan was sent to him to let him know that inventory had been taken. So the king’s sin was exposed and laid out before him.

In Psalm 51 David humbly confessed his sins, and prayed to be changed for God’s glory.

Psalm 51:1-2, “… Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

Our inventory sometimes turns up troubling things we think we’ve hidden. But there they are — eating away at our souls and offending God.

It’s good to take time for a close look at what God knows is inside us. But like King David, we need God to do the searching.

We’re not good at taking our own inventory of what’s in our hearts. We still suffer from the damage passed on to us by the fall of Adam. Our judgment isn’t perfected yet in this life. We tend to overlook what’s wrong.

Our neurological system does a similar thing as we get used to things that effect our senses. In neural adaptation we become desensitized to things so the ordinary things don’t get in the way of new things that come along we need to notice.
– Our sense of smell is one of the most obvious examples. If you’re exposed to an odor for a long time, you don’t sense it any more. That’s called olfactory fatigue, or more commonly being “nose blind“. This is why someone with certain odors in his house isn’t aware of it.
– Another example is our sense of hearing. People who live near a highway tend to not notice the sounds of cars and trucks after awhile. If a guest stays over night with them, they wonder how anyone could sleep with all the noise.
– There are even some kinds of pain that are blocked out by the brain itself. Once pain has done it’s job of alerting us to something needing our attention, certain kinds of discomfort seem to fade into the background.

There’s also a morality fatigue. It desensitizes our souls to things that are neither right nor good. We become comfortable little by little with things that aren’t moral or true. Dabbling in something morally questionable may seem harmless after awhile. In time, it makes us accept going a little farther because we’ve accommodated our soul to it. Certain sins become our accepted background noise, It’s as if we can’t “smell it” anymore.

This is why God doesn’t leave us on our own to do this inventory. He gives us a clear description of what’s right and good in his word. Regular and prayerful Bible reading and study shines light on our dark places. Scripture defines in plain language what’s good and what’s sinful.

The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts shows us how the word applies to our lives. He convicts us of things we would overlook. He stirs us to be concerned about our walk with Christ.

And God teaches us to pray for understanding and for a sharper sense of what’s good and evil. With David, we should ask God to search our hearts. We want him to expose any grievous or evil way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting.

Jesus taught us about this in Matthew 7:3-5. There he said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

When we take part in the Lord’s Supper, we’re directly commanded to be sure we have first examined ourselves. 1 Corinthians 11:28, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. ” We should be sure our sins are admitted and humbly brought to the Lord admitting our guilt. And we need to come with a sincere faith resting confidently in what our Savior did when he died for his people, that our sins are fully paid for on the cross.

But our inventory of the soul isn’t just to find problems to fix. Like the inventory done at Walmart and a grocery store, we need to see what we have to work with, what’s on the shelf.

God shows us evidences of his work of grace. We become aware of his rich blessings and provisions. We are reminded of talents and abilities we might be taking for granted. It stirs us to thankful praise for God’s gifts,
and to diligent service using our time and other resources to faithfully advance his kingdom.

Once inventory’s taken, we need to deal with what we find there. As this old year ends and the new one starts, what has God given each of us to use for his glory? what things do we need to repair in our lives, things we’ve become used to that offend God, harm our witness for him, and keep us from effective service?

It’s a good time to re-evaluate our schedules, our priorities, and discover any moral fatigue. Plan to make use of what’s in your life so it can promote God’s glory.

The wise words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 is good advice for us as we begin each new year, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

(Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.)

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