"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
February 15, 2011
My sister and brother-in-law, Janie and Jimmy, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on Sunday, February 5th. On that Saturday evening, their church hosted a surprise party for them, inviting a few close friends and family. They had set up a small money tree, and anyone who wanted to give them a monetary gift could pin it to the tree. My nephew and his wife, Brian and Nicole, attended the party, as well as their two kids. Winston, who is age 6, had brought his wallet with some of his allowance money in it. He asked his dad if it would be okay if he pinned $1.00 of his money onto the tree to give to Janie and Jimmy; which he did.
Later that evening, Brian and Nicole were visiting with me and Jon and told us about Winston wanting to give $1.00 of his own money. They said that he really has a generous heart. A while back he overheard Nicole telling Brian that he needed to take a check they had received and deposit it into the bank first thing the next morning. They weren't broke, but she just didn't want him to forget or misplace the check. But Winston misunderstood and took it to mean that they were out of money and needed some. He came in and told Brian, "Dad, I have some money in my piggy bank that you can have." At first, Brian didn't know what he was referring to, and told him that he could keep his money. Winston insisted, "Really dad! I don't mind. I have some money that I'll give to you." They finally realized what he was thinking, and that he was willing to give them all his money in order to help them out. They thanked him, but assured him that they didn't need it and that it was okay for him to keep it.
The definition of generous is: A person showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected; showing kindness toward others.
There are several scriptures that speak of generosity. Let's see what God has to say about the subject.
"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Another version reads, "He who waters will himself be watered." Proverbs 11:24-25
It doesn't make sense that if you give freely, you grow richer; yet if you withhold what you should give, you will suffer want. After all, shouldn't you have more if you keep your money instead of freely giving it to help others? Perhaps the richness comes not in the form of having more finances and a big bank account, which is what most people tend to focus on. But our wealth may very well come in the form of other blessings. If we share that which God has blessed us with, then our needs will be supplied. Maybe not our every want, but our every need will be met by God.
"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" 1 John 3:17
A story from Luke chapter eleven comes to mind. Jesus was teaching and gave this example: "Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.' And from inside he shall answer and say, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.' I (Jesus) tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is a friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.'"
A few verses down Jesus continues: "Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?"
Most everyone will do what they can to help out a friend or family member. We'll get out of bed in the middle of the night, if necessary. If we have something that someone close to us needs, we'll loan or give it to them. Parents will give good gifts to their children, not things that will harm them. We take care of those we love. Yet sometimes God may impress upon us to help someone that we may not know well. If we have the means, are we willing to take pity on him, also? According to 1 John 3:17, if we have the material possessions to help a brother in need but refuse to take pity on him and help him out, then the love of God cannot be in us. There may be times when we reach out and help someone simply because that is what Jesus would have us do. The love of God resides within us, therefore, we love as God would love.
"As He looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 'I tell you the truth,' He said, 'this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All theses people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.'" Luke 21:1-4
I love this story. I've heard people comment that they wish they had the money to help others, or when they get rich they'd start giving. But there is something that each of us can do. This poor widow gave all that she had to live on, which was only two copper coins. She was living in poverty, yet here were the rich putting in large amounts of money, and more than likely making a big show of it. I'm sure many thought, "Why is she even giving at all? Her little piddly two coins won't amount to anything and can't do any good. The need is so much larger than that!" Yet Jesus saw the gifts that each individual was giving and said that, "this poor widow has put in more than all the rest." The others had more money at home or in the bank, and gave out of their abundance. This little widow woman gave all that she had.
But I think it went much deeper than the amount of the offering. I think Jesus saw their hearts and knew their motives for giving. Have you ever noticed that many times when someone gives a large gift or donation, they like the recognition that comes with it? They want people to know what they did and take pride in the acknowledgement from others and like a fuss being made over them. Even though some may "act" humble, they enjoy the attention they receive for what they've done. But many times, those who have little to give, do it in secret and don't want any recognition or thanks for it. They see a need, and do what they can to help out.
It's easy to look at someone who doesn't have much to give and question why they even bother. But I believe that God pours out a blessing upon them that is greater than most of us can comprehend. Why? Because they give out of their lack, not their abundance. And if we refuse their gift, even if it may not personally be for us, then we hinder them from receiving a blessing.
I'm not only talking of monetary gifts, although that is what individuals need at times. But there are a lot of things that we can give to meet a need that someone else has. I think that sometimes it's much easier for those people of wealth to write out a check and go on their way, while the need may go deeper than that. Time is one of the most precious commodities that we have, and sometimes the hardest for us to give. There are situations where someone may have a home repair that is needed and have no knowledge or resources in which to get it done, and we have the know-how of fixing it for them. It may be giving someone a ride while their car is in the shop. There are so many things that we can do for others.
I've been in the position several times when I wanted to do something for someone, yet didn't feel that I had the resources or what little dab of money I had would make a difference. I learned, over time, that it's not always finances that matter. Sometimes there are other things we can give that can be more meaningful.
When I was in my twenties (many years ago!), I wasn't making a lot of money and trying to make it on my own. We had a men's Teen Challenge group that used our church as their home base, when they weren't out ministering elsewhere. The director and his wife had three kids and didn't make much money in their position. The wife and I became very good friends. During their time there, I spent a lot of time sitting at her kitchen table visiting with her or babysitting their kids. I didn't have any money to give to help them with their needs, but I could pray for them that God would meet them. I couldn't help financially, but I was able to spent time with her. They lived far away from family, and she was very lonely at times and he put in long hours at the center. I did what I could to help ease some of that loneliness. When they needed to go places, I offered to keep their kids for them. I didn't have money to invest in their ministry or to help lighten their financial burden, but I could invest my time and give my friendship. Although they've moved on many years ago, we still keep in touch and have one of those friendships that is lasting, although we haven't seen one another in several years.
My point is, there are things we can always do to reach out and befriend and help others, if we choose to do so.
"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:7
Many years ago, I was living alone and really didn't have very much money to live on. I worked at my home church as one of the teachers at a preschool we had at that time. It was only three days a week, and I worked the other days as church secretary. I didn't make a lot of money, but that was back when minimum wage was probably around $3.00 an hour, if that; so I probably was making as much as someone working a minimum wage job. I had my own car and lived in an old dilapidated mobile home. I was able to pay my bills, but didn't have much left over. We had an older couple in the church and he happened to notice that one of my tires was bald. He told me that it could be dangerous driving on it, and offered to go buy me a new tire and put it on for me, then I could pay him back whenever I got the money. I thought he was being very generous and genuinely wanted to help me. I took him up on the offer, and the next time I got paid I reimbursed him for the tire. But then I found out that after he helped me, he was going around making negative comments about me to various people in the church. One of the comments that got back to me was that he said that I was too lazy to hold down a real job, which was why I was working at the church. He was telling people that he had to buy me a new tire, and I'm not sure whether or not he let them know that I had reimbursed him for it. This situation really hurt me, because I thought someone was giving out of their generosity to help me fill a need; then it felt as if they were only doing it to make me look bad and try to make themselves look good for "having" to help me.
When we give to others, whether it be financially or helping them fix something or giving of our time or babysitting or whatever it may be, we need to make sure our motives are pure. Are we doing it so we can tell others what we've done? Are we doing it as an act of pride or to try and make them look bad? Do we want to make them feel bad or look bad to others? Or are we willing to do our deeds in secret, and have a pure heart and pure motives for our actions?
If we again look at the definition of what generous means, we need to be sure we do what we do for the right reasons. "A readiness to give more of something than is necessary or expected; showing kindness to others."
When Janie and Jimmy had their anniversary, I wanted to do something special for them. I wanted to do something that would be meaningful, so I sent messages by email and using the Facebook inbox to as many family and friends as I could, asking for them to mail me anniversary cards. I kept them together, put them in a gift bag, and on their anniversary gave it to Janie and Jimmy. I had received cards from uncles and aunts, cousins, old friends, a former pastor, a high school teacher they had both had, and a school custodian. Janie and Jimmy were absolutely thrilled and she kept asking me how I had contacted all those people and got them to send cards. It hadn't taken much effort on my part; just putting the messages out there. One afternoon I went out to get the mail and had received a whole handful of cards for them that day. I came back inside and had tears in my eyes and was so touched that so many people had responded and done this for my sister and brother-in-law. I told Jon that we absolutely have the very best family and friends in the world, and it meant a lot to me that they would respond and do this. I know that Janie has read these cards over and over again, and the generosity of so many family and friends has overwhelmed her and Jimmy.
I think sometimes we think our generosity has to be given in some big way. But it may just be in the form of a card or note. It may not always be given financially, although there are occasions when we may be able to help in that manner. We can give of our time, which is often more valuable to us than money is. And it may be praying for someone, even though we may not know the specific need. God knows and can answer, even though we don't know all the details.
Let us all look for ways in which to show generosity to others. If we do so, then the benefits we'll reap will far exceed our expectations. There may come a time when we are the one in need, and God will send someone to minister to us. We are a body working together, helping one another, and encouraging one another; or at least, we should be. Let's do our part to show kindness and love. May we all reach out and show the love of Jesus to others.
In Acts 3:6, a crippled man was expecting to receive money from Peter and John. But, "Then Peter said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.'"
Peter wasn't able to give the man money. But God had blessed Peter with a gift of healing. So that's what Peter shared.
I believe God gives everyone at least one gift that they can share with others. We may struggle to find it. And we might hide it for so long we can't even find it anymore. But we have something we can share.
1 box German chocolate cake mix
1 cup pecans
16 oz. Hershey's caramel topping (do not use the caramel flavored, use the real thing)
1 cup chocolate chips
Prepare cake mix as directed on package. Pour half of batter in greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips and pecans on top of cake. Pour caramel topping over chips and nuts. (If you heat caramel in microwave to warm it up it will pour easier.) Cover with remaining cake batter. Bake 20 minutes longer. Check after 15 minutes and watch to make sure you don't overcook.
I recently bought a 12-inch heart-shaped cake pan, then have had a hard time finding a cake stand big enough. Most cake stands come in 10 or 12 inch, which are too small; I need at least a 14-inch. I found an idea of an easy, cheap way to make your own. Buy a ceramic planter bottom for a large pot. Turn a small ceramic pot upside down and glue to the bottom of the large planter bottom to make a stand. Allow glue to dry, then you can spray paint in the color of your choice. You could also decorate with stencils, or if you're really artistic paint a design on it.... or be creative.
The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
We love you!
Loretta & Jon