WHAT CAN I GIVE HIM?
BY: JAN ANTONSSON
DECEMBER 9, 2013
“…Consider the lilies, how they grow. They neither work nor weave. But I say to you, not even Solomon, in all his glory, was clothed like one of these.” (Luke 12:27, Catholic Public Domain Version)
The Christmas Holiday is upon us bringing joy and cheer, along with some angst caused by too many things to do, too many gifts to buy, too many cards to send and on and on we could go. To make it even more difficult a winter storm named Clion has blasted through with a gift most of us would just as soon not receive: snow, ice, sleet, and freezing rain. I was snowed in while writing this, but thankfully, I was able to get the van out and go to Wal-Mart this morning. It’s snowing again now!
Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking of a verse found in Mark 10:29. In this chapter, Mark tells the story of the rich young ruler who came and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit Eternal Life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments, which the young man assured him he had done since he was a boy. Then, looking into the man’s soul, Jesus added, “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mk. 10:21) I’m sure you remember that the young man went away sorrowfully because he had great wealth (Vs. 22). Jesus took this opportunity to tell the disciples that it is very hard for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.
The men were astonished. “But Jesus, answering again, said to them: “Little sons, how difficult it is for those who trust in money to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Vs. 24) Did you ever know anyone who trusted in money? It’s a sad thing to behold. Those of us who may have felt the pinch of too little money may be tempted to think that people who have it are happier than we are. My observation over a lifetime of dealing with people, yes, even rich people, is that they are not only NOT happier, but sometimes they are much more miserable than the poor because of their fears of losing it all. Jesus knew this because He could read the hearts of people, so when the disciples wondered aloud how anyone could be saved, He replied, “With men it is impossible; but not with God. For with God all things are possible.” (Vs. 27, CPDV)
That brings me to the verses I began pondering since 1997, when we were losing our house. Mark’s gospel is the only one who spells it out this clearly. When Peter reminded Jesus that they had left everything to follow Him, He assured them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has left behind house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or land, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive one hundred times as much, now in this time: houses, and brothers, and sisters, and others, and children, and land, with persecutions, and in the future age, eternal life. But many of the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” (Vs. 29-31, CPDV). At the time we lost our house, I calculated that the market value was about $450,000. I have wondered if Mark 10:29-30, could be taken literally. That would indeed be a LOT of money!
Yes, I realize that’s fanciful, shallow and materialistic thinking, but it was a tantalizing thought to contemplate, which sort of dulled the pain of our great loss. We lived in a 5th wheel RV parked next to the barn on the family farm from 1997 until 2012. Those years were a great blessing to me in many ways. I didn’t really care where I lived so long as I could be with Lenny and he felt the same about me. We both knew that God was the moving dynamic behind our situation and we both knew that His will is always done. The day we moved out of our home in 1997, with the new buyers moving in on top of us, I asked the Lord, “Where will my home be now?” He said clearly and forcefully, “I AM your home.”
This past week, the Spirit reminded me of the verse about our being returned 100 times what we lost, and I knew there would be a writing about it. I asked the Lord what He meant, and He answered immediately, “You can never out give me.” That was one of those instant in-depth sermons in few words which flooded my soul and spirit. I realized that if you stack up what we have given and all we may have lost as a result of following the Lord, it is but a pittance compared to what He has given us. Sometimes we don’t see how very rich we are in spiritual gifts because we’re too involved with the mundane issues of life.
When we first launched The Glory Road on the Internet, we got beautifully written, heart melting e-mails from African brothers in Christ, describing their ministry, their care of the widows and orphans and their incredible needs, always asking that we pray for them and that we send money. At one point after reading one of these e-mails to Lenny, I said, “Merciful heavens, they must think we’re rich.” He said, “We are, compared to them.” Rich is a relative term, depending on where you live, who you know, and what you consider important.
Third world countries do not have the basic necessities of life that we hold dear and sometimes take for granted, like clean air, clean water, sanitation, and food which is safe to eat. I received a catalogue from TBN, I think, with a selection of life stock which you could send to a needy family. It made me smile at first to think of sending someone a goat, or a few chickens, or even a water buffalo, but I realized that this is exactly what they need. What would they do with money if we sent them any? There are probably no Wal-Mart Super Centers in the African Bush.
Friday night, I felt a nudge to call a friend whom I reach out to a couple times a year. She isn’t on the Internet, so a phone call or snail mail is the best way to reach her. She had just celebrated her 80th birthday and as we talked I realized what a burden she is carrying. Her husband is in his 6th year in a VA Nursing Home. He has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and no longer recognizes her. Her daughter who lives with her underwent a double mastectomy and has job and no health insurance. My friend lives on Social Security like a lot of us do. I know her to be a woman who depends on the voice of the Lord for guidance, comfort, and wisdom. I asked her what He is saying about her situation, and she replied, “He always says, ‘Trust me.’”
As a matter of fact that’s what He says to me, and probably to you as well, when we fret about money, weather, health, relationships, or whatever else comes to mind at 3:00 in the morning. Considering the fact that rich people still worry about money, how to keep it, where to put it to minimize taxes, putting our trust in money seems like a fool’s errand. It reminds me of Jesus’ observations after he told the story of the rich fool who gloried in his possessions and proposed to tear down his barns and build bigger ones so he could store all his grain and other goods. He boasted, “And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘You fool!’ This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself? This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Lk. 12:16-21, NIV)
In case they or we missed the message, Jesus continued, “…Do not choose to be anxious about your life, as to what you may eat, nor about your body, as to what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens. For they neither sow nor reap; there is no storehouse or barn for them. And yet God pastures them. How much more are you compared to them?” (Vs. 22-24, CPDV)
As always, Jesus words apply to me, because worrying about things makes me lose sight of WHO is driving this train I’m on. So, once more, I repent, change my mind about where my focus should be, and ask the Lord to remind me to seek the Giver, rather than the gift, for all our needs are met and our fears swallowed up in HIM!
Father, we ask You to refocus our vision, away from what we think we need, onto the Christ who has been born again in our manger. He is our Gift, one that we cannot earn and which keeps on giving to us forever. Make us light bearers and unconditional love givers to those who don’t know Him. Make us a blessing to those who walk in fear and darkness. Help us declare Your name in all the earth. In Christ, we ask it, amen.