I met a man this morning at McDonald’s while studying the scriptures over breakfast. This man was 68 years old, and had encountered several medical issues in the last 15 years of his life. As a result, he was jobless, and forced to beg for money to simply survive. This morning, however, he was not asking for money. I had recognized him from a previous visit to McDonald’s, so I asked him if I could buy him breakfast. He did not want to allow me to do so, as he was planning to only get a “senior coffee” at a discounted rate. I could see in his eyes that he was hungry, so I insisted, and he eventually acquiesced.
I asked him to sit down with me so we could talk while he ate. He told me he felt blessed and very thankful for me buying his meal, because yesterday he helped a lady at the bus stop. She was frantic because she was short twenty-five cents for the bus fare, and she needed to get home. He overheard her, pulled out all the money he had (twenty-eight cents), and gave it to her. He told me she started to cry and ask why “he” (emphasizing “he” being the guy bumming change) would help “her” (emphasizing “her” being the one who wouldn’t normally be asking for change). He replied with the rhetorical question, “People give to me, so why shouldn’t I give to others?”
Why is it so much easier for those with little to give? Why is it so difficult for people with much to give?
Recall the story of the widow in the book of I Kings. She and her son were preparing for their final meal, “…that we may eat it, and die” she said. Elijah asked her to make him a cake first, and then to make a cake for her and her son. He went on to say that the Lord proclaimed that she would have provisions until the drought was over. What’s interesting here is that Elijah directly asked this poor widow to make him a cake first, and then to make a cake for her and her son. Notice how she not only trusted that what this man said would be true (“The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”), but trusted it so much as to make him a cake first?
Also recall the poor widow in the Gospels who gave her two mites to the treasury in the temple. In contrast to the rich casting in “much,” the Lord said about her, “…this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury.” There is much debate about the “two mites” and the worth, but the important component here is that she was poor, and that she gave everything she had. While the rich gave of their abundance, she gave her all.
When is the last time you gave where it “hurt?” Throwing a couple of bucks in the offering plate, dropping some change in a man’s tin cup, buying a stranger breakfast at McDonald’s….all good things, but does it really affect you all that much? In the above examples (both widows by the way–the poorest of the poor), they scraped the bottom of the barrel to give. Do you really think God needs our “tip” dropped in the offering plate? While some contend that the tithe is painful, others don’t even miss it.
The question here is: Are you prepared to go without, so that others don’t have to?
The question is not only about money–this is how our economy runs–but time is also a variable in this equation.
Are you willing to spend time with someone broken, hurting, estranged, destitute, or poor, even though it cuts into your time at the gym? Perhaps you could sacrifice on the five hours per day that the average american spends in front of the TV? Or frankly (and probably more controversial), the time you spend at the church? In the same way that God wants more than our 10% “tip,” he wants more than the sliver of time you might spend sitting in church. Please don’t misunderstand me here–I believe we are not to forsake the gathering, but most people feel like they can go to church on a Sunday (even morning/evening and Wednesday), and fulfill our duty as Christians…almost as if it’s community service. We’re programmed to do this…but heaven help the stranger asking for change at the gas station on the way to church (or on the way to the restaurant afterwards). The parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind here…
Americans are stingy with their time and money because we are living a life of luxury. Even the poor people here are rich in the eyes of the poor around the world, yet we don’t feel like we have the time or money to give.
Not pointing fingers here…I am as guilty as the next guy…
An old friend recently commented to me, “We live simply, so others can simply live.”
As Christ said to the Laodicean church (not getting into the topic of “church-age” or actual church here–the premise is the same):
“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17
Check your spiritual temperature–are you “lukewarm?” (Rev 3:16)