What Giving Costs Us

When you give to someone that is not in need, There is usually an agenda. It might be small or innocent like making yourself feel good, getting on their good side, or getting the attention of others. Of course it could also be more malevolent. It could be to sway decisions, get something in return, or to prop yourself up in more sinister ways.

When you do not give to someone in need, a basic humanitarian transaction is denied. The Bible outlines this in Matthew 25:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”

Matthew 25: 35-36
  • Hungry.
  • Thirsty.
  • Lonely.
  • Naked.
  • Sick.
  • Imprisoned.

While it may not be an exhaustive list, it was important enough to spell out 4 times in that chapter. Those that Jesus would vouch for honored others as He defined, and those who Jesus claimed He did not know ignored the needs of others. He didn’t say, I wanted to play Nintendo and you didn’t share. I wanted to supersize and you gave me the small. I wanted to travel and you stayed home. I asked for paper and you gave me plastic. Those aren’t really needs.

He talked about things that make us people. The basic physical necessities and a few things that might not seem to fit. “Visited in prison”. “Welcomed as a stranger”. When all of the rest of those can be life or death, how do these two fit in?

First, I think it gives insight into how much God cares for and loves us. He came into this world as a human and allowed himself to be sacrificed for us. He isn’t going to ask us to do something He isn’t willing to do Himself. He was tempted, hungry, alone, sad, neglected, and homeless. He asks us to care about people because He cares about people.

He isn’t trying to be a government over us. He isn’t limited to absolutes. He isn’t content to measure out specific portions to meet our bodily needs, He tends to our soul. Loneliness can be devastating. Solitude, desperation and imprisonment can be epically harsh. Jesus is saying, if you care about me… you care about the people that I love. Guess who that is? Us!!! You and me!

He cares about us. His commands are to take care of each other because He loves us and wants to see our needs met… all of our needs. And make sure you understand that visitation… is a NEED. Compassion is a need. It’s even a need for the criminals. If we aren’t in there meeting the needs of the convict, are we responding to Jesus favorably?

If we give to no one, we are giving to ourselves. It may mask itself in different ways. Wasting money, greed, hoarding. Ultimately, we give to who we care about. Notice this passage doesn’t mention money? It’s about time, commitment, integrity.

If your grandmother called and asked you for help in using the new TV remote, would you get out your checkbook? It’s amazing how many needs we try to cure with money. Over time it has created the adverse effect of not wanting to help because we don’t feel we can financially support new ministries. Is this how we think of grandma? A burden not worth our time because it will eventually cost us?

I hope we all would be excited at the opportunity to help her get her stories working on the picture box (that is old people talk for watching TV). Often, the call to missionary work isn’t an attempt at your bank account. It’s an invitation to live out, first hand, seeing Jesus, embodied in humanity, and needing food, water, shelter, and love.

Visitation isn’t about upgrading the church van, having to buy extra meals, or budgeting for expense reports… it’s about tending to the souls in this world. And, in many cases, the only cost is our time managed by our hearts.

When we make time for God on Sundays and neglect everyone else throughout the week, Matthew 25 claims Jesus will not know us in the end. Some people have the opposite problem. They are honestly good people who love others and cherish the ideology of helping each other out. They are found in soup kitchens, housing projects, and clothing drives.

They visit hospitals and bring gifts to assisted living homes. But they don’t know God. They never step foot in a church and wouldn’t know what to do with a Bible. This group has solved the equation without knowing the question. Christians tend to struggle to answer while knowing the question. So which is it? When do we give? What do we give? To whom do we give?

Jesus answered this in a very unique way. He endured. Nails, thorns, blasphemy, insults, spit in the face, beatings, lies, corruption, agendas, thirst, hunger, greed… He endured. When it came to what He wanted to accomplish, it seemed, to Him at least, to be simple. “forgive them”. All of them.

I’m going to climb on this cross and give up everything I have. I will die… for them. All of them. I will give up everything for everyone. I will take on their sins and pay for them with the ultimate cost. I will give freely of all my blood to cover all their sins.

And when they see me embodied by a poor and lonely soul, what will be a fair response? 10%? A private prayer later? Maybe a few moments just to say Hi? Nothing? “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 40 and again 46). What would you like to do for Jesus today? How can you say thank you? What percentage will you muster for the Man that gave you 100?

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

My Wife Broke Up With Me

She really did. Of course, she wasn’t my wife then… but she is now. Back in high school I was socially awkward, shy, and really struggled with relationships. So I was just like I am today only much better looking and younger.

We dated for a bit and then she decided it was time to move on. Over 20 years later, we reconnected and got married. Our wedding photo sits next to our prom picture. We often talk about the ‘what ifs’. What if we had stayed together? What if we married 20 years ago?

As the victim in the breakup, I have certain liberties. I get to talk about how heartbroken I was. What if I had responded to that heartbreak in different ways?

  1. What if I decided that because I was hurt, I would never date again?
  2. What if I chose, that since a person hurt me, I would never trust people again?
  3. What if I blamed her parents for how she treated me, and broke the relationship off, permanently, with everyone even remotely involved?

Doesn’t that sound lovely? No more dating, no more extended family, and no more people… ever. Is that a tad extreme?

Some of us respond the very same way to the church when it hurts us. The church is supposed to be this safe place. We expect judge-free zones and places billowing with love, peace, and acceptance. But it’s filled with humans and humans are flawed. So we get just a fraction of what the church is supposed to be. And, to be honest, it’s a shattered fraction at that.

Maybe you were one of those who entered the place of worship with your life tank on empty. You were broken. You were desperate. That was the very last straw. And when you finally conceded to the love of the church, you got a cold shoulder rather than a warm heart. You saw sneers instead of smiles. That pat on the back had a knife in it, didn’t it?

Sadly, this is common. There are a few reasons for it. The blanket statement is simple. We are the church. We are sinners. We make mistakes. We will continue to mess up until Jesus returns to set things in line with what they were intended to be.

So why bother with a church at all? Why subject ourselves to an imperfect plan? Why make ourselves vulnerable to others who could potentially hurt us again?

There are many answers. Several are better than the one I’m going to give now, but I feel its important to ponder this aspect as well, so I’m going to give it anyway… My answer is that we do it for the same reason we keep dating, even after we leave a failed relationship.

We were built, from the ground up (literally if you know your old testament), to have companions in life. God saw that Adam was lonely and He created Eve for Him. So even when Eve tosses Adam the apple, or when my high school sweetheart friend-zones me, we have this inbuilt desire to have a companion that overrides the warnings and danger signs around the thought of another possible failed relationship.

It’s who we are. We are meant to be together, misery and all. Most of us learn, early in life, that when one person doesn’t work out, we keep looking until we find someone that can accept us and deal with us as we are. This is what God does. It does not matter where we are, its the same path and distance to get back to God for all of us. No one has any farther to travel than anyone else.

Because God never leaves us, we all only have to turn to Him. We often think of this long, arduous journey… that is in our heads. God is one prayer away for every last single one of us.

Turning away from God because a Christian hurt you is like blaming your spouses parents because your spouse did something wrong. Most likely, their parents taught them better and they would be on your side anyway. Isn’t it odd that when people act in defiance of God… we blame God? When a Christian gossips and says hurtful things, they are ignoring the love and wisdom of God. And our reaction is to flee from God, the very one who says, ‘don’t gossip and say hurtful things’.

I don’t want to encourage church hopping, but some people need to find a church home. A community of believers that will accept you the same way God does… Just as you are. That doesn’t mean you don’t have some work to do and some changes to make. It means that they won’t judge your past. It means they understand that they are sinners too. Ultimately it means that they want to walk with you and share burdens along the way.

Why? We need the church just like we need our Adam or Eve. We are in-wired with a need for community. There are actually churches out there for atheists, satanists, and all manner of commonality that does not center around God. We know we need each other, we just forget why. When it makes absolutely no sense at all, we find ways to gather together in any semblance of likeness that we can muster.

Why can we forgive our exes, but we hold God eternally guilty? Why can we give a free pass to humanity, and forever condemn the church? Hurt after hurt we go to jobs that don’t appreciate us, seek friends that don’t honor us, and commune with strangers who don’t love us… but the God that defined love and created companions just for us gets a hard pass. We use terms like “never”. I will never let the church hurt me again. I heard someone say to their 4th wife.

God doesn’t need a second chance. He needs the first chance. Our best chance. Your relationship with us humans will always have its ups and downs. One of the problems with going ‘into’ a church is it puts too much emphasis on the people in it. If we seek God first, every thing else seems to fall into place rather nicely.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you

Matthew 6:33 ESV

I don’t want to be an example of the church. Especially when I’m driving. Oh how the hatred flows when I’m in the car. No blinkers, late mergers, getting cut off, slow drivers in the wrong lane, speeders, tailgaters, If you are in another car around, I may not like you very much. I don’t like this about myself… how I let the rage step in when people drive like jerks… but it happens. And I don’t want God to be held accountable for when I mess up. And I don’t want anyone else to be either.

If I dressed up like Tom Hanks and did an impersonation of him, but it was terrible, would you stop watching his movies? Would you blame him because you didn’t like the work I did? This works both ways when it comes to Christianity. Not only is it odd to blame God when others are doing poor impressions of Him, but it’s not good when we ourselves claim Christ and then don’t act like Him at all, knowing how the world will react.

So I’d like to make a recommendation. Clean the slate. Has God wronged you? Or has a fallen world taken its toll? Crack the pages of your Bible, open your heart to it’s author. Seek His followers as equal companion and sinner. And, don’t walk away from the cure to the pain you are feeling. I know how happy I am that I dated again. It let me find my wife and life has never been better. Plus I get to remind her that she dumped me and that has its advantages too!

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Why Don’t Bank Robbers Steal Tacos?

Imagine, if you will, that you are a lover of money. Your heart’s true desire is to amass lots of wealth. With that in place, I’m going to claim you have chosen a life of surrounding yourself with bank robbers. Why? Bank robbers don’t steal tacos. They rob banks. By definition, their ‘profession’ is to steal money, the thing you hold most dear.

By choosing money, you automatically align yourself against the very opponent to that thing. In other words, you can’t choose to love money AND remove yourself from the stealers of money. They go hand in hand. For every desire of value, there is someone else that wants to take that thing.

If you were to say that Jesus Christ is the desire of your heart, then by default, you are inviting in the enemy of Jesus Christ to attempt to take away all of the good things that decision brings.

This occurred to me when I was contemplating all of the hardship I’m seeing in believers. Sickness, loss, marriages struggling, relationships suffering, pain, grief, loneliness, and so much more. Does this mean God doesn’t love us or He isn’t there? No! It means that bank robbers rob banks.

The enemy goes where there is something to steal. If there is nothing to steal, he has no reason to go there. So if I were to look around the church or the family, or the work place… and there is no antagonist, maybe that should raise a flag?

This is a question for thought… can we do the work of God and yield no opposition? Jesus certainly found opponents. The sound of tears, the comforting hugs, extra prayers for those struggling, in an eerie way, it almost feels like home.

Think of a soldier who earnestly wishes to fight the enemy. He wants to bring about peace and he sincerely wants to protect innocent people from the battle, so he rushes to fight in hopes of ending the conflict quickly. Where does he go? To have coffee with friends? Does he hide in a safe place? I think He runs to the front lines of the biggest battle. He follows the sounds of war in hopes of finding the enemy.

It’s in this vein we need to discern the effects of our adversary. He doesn’t waste much time where there isn’t anything of value to take. In my opinion, we can relent the effects of a fallen world, or we can breathe in deeply knowing that we aren’t pushing the enemy back if he isn’t present in our work. If I don’t sense fear in the enemy… I’m not following in the footsteps of our Savior.

Analogies have their flaws. In this one there is a strong difference between bank robbers and the Devil. If a robber steals all of my money, I have none. It’s a simple math problem seen countless times on Sesame Street. If I have 10 cookies and Cookie Monster eats all 10 cookies, how many do I have left? None! My 5 year old knows that.

But when the enemy of Christ steals my loved ones, messes with my marriage, turns my friends against me, takes my job, and ruins my life… what do I have left? Everything.

I still have everything. Everything of value anyway. This is perhaps the biggest lie the enemy can muster. He can’t take anything that actually has value. Just like the bank robber, he only goes where he can profit… but unlike anything else in history… he can only actually take, what you freely give.

Take heart in the presence of the enemy. He WANTS to take everything away from you. But he can’t when we stand behind the Christ He actually wants to steal you from. Don’t be low hanging fruit for the Devil’s pleasure. It’s a trap, a lie, and a con all rolled into one. Speak the name, ‘Jesus!’ and bask in the gift that cannot be taken.

Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash