Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Giving Freely

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with the previous post.


The second week I was here in Middle Earth I left the house to go in search of groceries. Half way to the shops I realized that I had changed my pants and left my money in the dirty clothes pile. So, being penniless I turned back to the house to retrieve the funds I would need to go shopping. Just then I ran into a man who was shabbily dressed and appeared to be trying to communicate with me. I spoke only English at that point and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted. Suddenly, I realized that this man was a beggar- a gypsy- and he wanted me to give him something. I told him- in English- that I had nothing. He looked puzzled. I pulled out the lining of my pocket and demonstrated that I was completely broke. He looked really concerned. He spoke much to me and very fast. I could understand none of it. Then he held his hands up in the position of prayer and instructed me to do the same. He turned me- presumably to face Mecca- and he prayed for us. Then he smiled at me and left. Now, for those of you with less overseas beggar experience this was pretty unusual. There were very few foreigners in Rohan at that time. In the city where I was there were only two other foreign families and I am sure that this man had never met a foreigner before. I think he really felt sorry for me and wanted to bless me with a prayer. I was bemused. I had come there to help these people and he was praying for me!

When we moved to Gondor the situation was very different. In the wake of the brutal civil war beggars lined the streets. They came door to door with stories of despair. We didn’t know what to do. After much prayer and Bible study our team came to some conclusions for the way we deal with beggars and those in need. I am well aware that there are godly men and women on other teams in other countries who disagree with me. That is fine. For us here, in this situation this is what we do and why.

In Matthew 5:42 Jesus gives us the foolish and ill-conceived words, “Give to everyone who begs from you.” Of course, he surely did not realize that there would one day be professional beggars who make a decent living by begging. He probably was unaware that many people beg for bread and then go out and buy alcohol. He couldn’t have known that there would one day be gangs of beggar boys and girls who would be forced to beg by some thugs who would take all they earned. You are likely unaware that sarcasm is one of my defining characteristics. Yes my friends, ‘Give to all who asks’ is an outrageous blank check and I think that Jesus knew it full well. Can we really do this? We are trying. It takes intentional preparation to be able to do this. In our country there is a coin that is just about the value of five cents and it can buy a loaf of flat bread. I try and give this to all who ask. That means keeping these coins in my pocket and being ready to give them. They are perfect for us in our context because anyone who is genuinely hungry can eat with this little coin. Anyone who wants alcohol or something else needs to collect quite a few more of these to get what he wants. But in the end this is not my business. Jesus has commanded me to give and I will give. You will notice he didn’t say what to give. I have had men approach me and demand that I give them beer. I didn’t. I gave them bread and if they turned and sold that bread for beer then that is between them and God. Between me and God the relationship is clear. He commands me to give and I give.

So, we always give. We do not always give what was asked of us. We always try and respect those whom we are serving. I usually try and give a quick blessing to the individual whom I am serving. We do not worry about being taken advantage of. The things we give are just things- easily replaced by a big God. Many times someone will say to me, ‘Yeah, but that guy is lying.’ I always reply, ‘Yes, but the truth is just as bad.’ But in the end this command was not given to us for the sake of the poor. It was given to us for our own sake. We are not to view the resources at our disposal as ours. We are not to be dependant on our riches. We are to be obedient to Jesus and expect that he will care for us and for the poor. At the end of the day who is going to bed praising God for something you did for them? There ought to be someone. Today make sure there is someone who is thanking God for you. Freely you have received, freely give.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Strider, I personally do not see how anyone could disagree with what you have shared in this one. We are very sorry to hear you guys haven't received the one package from back in March and sincerely hope you will soon. Take Care, Angie.

Strider said...

Hey Angie, I have been in the village today and have not done e-mail but we got the package yesterday! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Fantastickkk!!!

BKC said...

Strider,
Good words. I do agree about not necessarily giving what the person asks for. I need to be more generous for sure.

One question...Matt 5:42 comes right in the middle of Jesus' teaching concerning dealing with those who would do you harm. Before verse 42 he teaches about not seeking your own vengeance against those who wrong you. After verse 42 he teaches about actively loving your enemies. Now to me, it seems a little strange that this one verse would be about needy beggars with no relationship to you asking for bread or money given the context surrounding it. Any thoughts?

Since I said I had one question, let me ask two. Are we also to live out "do not refuse one who would borrow from you" (the last half of Matt 5:42) with no exceptions? It is contained in the same teaching. So would you apply the same logic to it?

Strider said...

bkc- Good questions. I think the point that Jesus is making is that we do not simply serve those who would later benefit us. Enemies, beggars, the needy are all people who will not reciprocate our kindness with kindness.

As for loans, we treat them the same. We try and give what we have but according to what God has given us not according to what they demand.

And let us not forget that in the case of loans which are generally with people we know, the commodoty to be shared is more often time, wisdom, and prayer rather than money. We must give of all our resources.

Bryan Riley said...

Exactly!!!

I just posted today on the Top Ten Commands I seem to treat as suggestions... that one made the list.

What is so frustrating is that many in the church are good at aggressively enforcing "commands" that aren't even in the bible like do not drink and baptize a certain way (possibly even baptize at all the way we do it) and tithe to the church, but when it comes to give, serve, love, make every effort to unity, don't argue and complain, get right with your brother, and the like... it's as though Jesus never said it.