PO Box 3425
July/August Issue 2004 - Volume 23 Number 4
“The Gift Of Love”
“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.” Luke 24:1
In early morning that eventful day,
The First Day of the week,
Unto the tomb the women came
Their precious Lord to seek.
Not finding Him they were perplexed.
Two men in shining garments said,
"He is not here, it's plain to see
For He is risen from the dead."
What did they think as they carried
Their precious gifts away?
The gifts they brought were needed not
That Resurrection Day.
Did they say within their hearts
Our work has been in vain?
Or, counting up the spices' cost
Of that great waste complain?
Not true, for though our risen Lord
Their gifts He did not need,
For from their hearts so full of love,
They planned the precious deed.
A little knowledge I had gleaned,
A little strength and skill.
I'll use them for my blessed Lord
If it should be His will.
Alas! Unused has been my store
The strength of youth is gone.
My hands grow weary; they've lost the skill,
But life continues on.
In this rushing, busy life
Mine is a very small share.
And small indeed the service done,
For Him whose name I bear.
My hopes and plans have died
In weariness and pain.
My soul cries out in great distress
"Was all my work in vain?"
Keep quiet and listen, your hopes and plans
Are known to One Divine!
He knows what you would have done,
Had greater strength been thine.
My spice unused, Dear Lord,
They were prepared for Thee.
But if for them you have no need
May love my offering be.
Ralph D. Gage
El Dorado, Arkansas
“A Willing Mind”
“For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12
It has often been said that we cannot out-give God. While we may surpass many of our neighbors in our gifts and donations to the church and other charitable works, we will never begin to repay what God has given to us both physically and spiritually. We may feel good about our giving when we compare ourselves to our neighbors, but how do we rate when it comes to what the Bible tells us about giving?
Someone who has given some thought to the subject of giving has stated that there are three kinds of givers --- the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it, and then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you squeeze, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. Some people are stingy and hard; they give nothing away if they can help it. Others are good-natured; they yield to pressure, and the more they are pressed, the more they will give. A few delight in giving, without being asked at all; and of these the Bible says, “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.”
The Corinthians may have been a little like the sponge. Paul writes to encourage them to follow through on the good intentions that they had regarding the poor saints. If any of them had thoughts of drawing back because of the small amount they could give, Paul reminds them that God looks on the heart and not just the gift (8:12). Paul’s mention of the churches in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1-6) exemplifies this very principle in giving. Although these churches were poor by most standards, they were very liberal in the gifts that they lovingly contributed. The example of the Macedonians was intended to spur the Corinthians on to match their words with actions.
By worldly standards, one of the most meager gifts ever mentioned in the Bible may be one of the stellar examples of honeycomb giving. One day when Jesus was in the Temple he saw a certain poor widow that He pointed out to his disciples. There were probably plenty of poor widows around Jerusalem, and the disciples’ attention most likely was centered on the lavish gifts that some of the rich folks were casting into the treasury. It is not unusual for any of us to need our attention refocused. The disciples were in danger of missing the great significance of the two mites this poor widow gave that day. Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty has put in all the livelihood that she had” (Luke 21:3-4).
This woman wouldn’t have been a Gold Level or even a Silver Level giver. Many charities rate and publish lists of donors based on the amount of the gifts that are given. If you give $1,000 then you are listed in the Gold Level. If you give $500 then you are listed in the Silver Level. This woman didn’t rate very high on the list kept by human hands that day. However, she was ranked as number one in the Lord’s book.
This story of the widow’s mites may lend itself to a sense of false security in some cases. We look at this widow and we are satisfied with our small offerings to the Lord. We applaud the fact that two mites were considered more valuable in Jesus judgment than all the talents of gold that others contributed that day. We must remember this important point about the widow. She gave sacrificially. The others gave out of their abundance. What does this mean? In Jesus’ words this widow “has put in all the livelihood that she had.” The others were giving what was left over. They had paid their bills, laid in their groceries, clothed the kids, fed the dog, repaired the roof and they were giving out of what was left over. They hadn’t done without anything that they wanted. They hadn’t made any sacrifices. They just gave what was left when they had taken care of all their own needs. This poor woman gave all that she had! We may think that we are like this widow because our offerings are small, and we may comfort ourselves in Jesus commendation of her. However, on closer examination we are not like this widow at all. We, too, have only given out of our abundance. We made no real sacrifice to give.
In another of the stories Jesus told we are confronted with a couple of flint givers and a honeycomb giver (Luke 10:29-37). A lawyer who was trying to justify his own attitudes and actions asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered him with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The two preachers in this story exhibit at best an attitude of unconcern and at worst devout stinginess! Some commentators accuse them of being too busy with church to attend to the needs of this unfortunate man; however, it is a charge that cannot be proven by scripture.
Those who level this accusation usually state that the Priest and the Levite were on their way to the Temple service in Jerusalem and wouldn’t stop to help. There are those who would like to salve their consciences because they don’t want to feel obligated to attend church services. This explanation of the parable is a perfect fit for them. They can do a few charitable deeds and forget church! But before the “un-churched” decide to sleep in this Sunday morning, we must point out that the scripture doesn’t say whether the Priest and Levite were headed west to Jerusalem or east to Jericho. It is possible that they had just finished serving their course in Jerusalem and were headed home to the wife and kids. All we really know is that when each of them saw the wounded man they “passed by on the other side.”
In this story Jesus assails the prevailing attitudes of Jews toward Samaritans. The Priest and the Levite embody the Jew’s haughty attitude toward their neighbors. They stand in stark contrast to the helpful Samaritan who exhibits a true example of honeycomb giving. Jesus forever answered the question about who is my neighbor --- it is the man who is in need of my assistance. This Samaritan went above and beyond the call of duty. He gave because there was a great need, not because someone was forcing him to give. He gave because he had been blessed with the means to help, not because he was richer than the others who passed by. He gave because he had compassion on the poor man who had been beaten and robbed, not because they were from the same tribe. He gave because he had a willing mind, not because he thought this man would surely pay him back for his trouble.
The story is told of this exchange in a little mission chapel in Cuba between Teofilo (“Friend of God”) and Christobel (“Christ-bearer”), a new convert. It reminds us that our actions must match our words, or, as James states it, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
“Christobel, if you had a hundred sheep would you give fifty of them for the Lord’s work?”
“Yes I would.”
“Would you do the same if you had a hundred cows?”
“Yes, Teofilo, I would.”
“Would you do the same if you had a hundred horses?”
“Yes, of course.”
“If you had two pigs, would you give one of them to Him?”
“No, I wouldn’t; and you have no right to ask me, Teofilo, for you know I have two pigs.”
Paul’s words are relevant for both Christobel and us: “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.”
“The Door of Full Surrender”
"But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." Job 23:10
I was recently sitting with the leader of a workplace organization as he described a question he poses to workplace believers. "What if there were two doors to choose from; behind one door was the complete will of God for your life and behind the other door was how life could be according to your own preference. Which door would you choose?"
The struggle for most lies in the desire to follow God completely and the fear of what might be behind the door of full surrender. Most of us desire to follow God, but few of us will do it at any cost. We do not really believe that God loves us to the degree that we are willing to give Him complete permission to do as He wills in us.
If we desire to fully walk with Christ, there is a cost. We may give intellectual assent and go along with His principles and do fine; however, if we are fully given over to Him and His will for our life, it will be a life that will have adversity. The Bible is clear that humans do not achieve greatness without having their sinful will broken. This process is designed to create a nature change in each of us, not just a habit change. The Bible calls it circumcision. Circumcision is painful, bloody, and personal.
If God has plans to greatly use you in the lives of others, you can expect your trials to be even greater than those of others. Why? Because, like Joseph who went through greater trials than most patriarchs, your calling may have such responsibility that God cannot afford to entrust it to you without ensuring your complete faithfulness to the call. He has much invested in you on behalf of others. He may want to speak through your life to a greater degree than through another. The events of your life would become the frame for the message He wants to speak through you.
Do not fear the path on which God may lead you. Embrace it. For God may bring you down a path in your life to ensure the reward of your inheritance. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Sully Stone had just completed his first year at a college for funeral directors, and during that time he had also worked with the local funeral home as an apprentice. Ol' man Lister and I were visiting with him downtown last week and Lister asked him about his chosen profession.
“What's the most interesting thing you learned this year about the funeral business, Sully?"
“Well, mister Lister,” Sully said solemnly, “I've learned that it's a very special occupation, and it's all interesting to me, but I remember there was one day when I was really surprised. You see, if the family doesn't provide a suit for a man when he dies, we provide it for them. We buy them from a supplier who works exclusively for funeral homes. I was getting one of those suits out and when I looked at the jacket I noticed ... that there were no pockets, just the pocket flaps! I guess the old saying is right, ‘You can't take it with you, so you better send it on ahead.’”
You know…I reckon he's right.