Don't get me wrong, I'd have to say that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, there's nothing wrong with the holiday itself. What's wrong is that we have a mindset that we only praise God and show our thankfulness on that specific day...
It doesn't really make a lot of sense.
This morning as I was cleaning up the kitchen I was thinking about a certain person that blessed my family many months ago. His name was Steve. At the time, my dad was without a job, my family was living off of literally whatever the Lord provided, and Steve was just one of the many small ways that God proved to us over and over again that he loved us.
I think the reason Steve stands out to me as one of the most touching and memorable acts of love is because of the way it happened. We had two goats for sale on Craigslist. Nothing special, just a couple female boer/Alpines that our dairy goat had given birth to earlier that year. We didn't need them, and we needed the money so we put them up on Craigslist and before too long, we received an email from Steve.
The funny thing was, about a year earlier we had previously had some different goats for sale on Craigslist. He was the person to buy them then, too. So when we read his email, we were like "Oh yeah! We know this guy." We set up a time for him to come out to pick up the goats.
When he got there, he saw our milk stand and asked if it was for sale. Mom decided to go ahead and sell it since we could use the money and our dairy goat wasn't going to be being used for milk for a while anyway. Steve also asked if we had any other milking equipment we wanted to sell, and mom ended up selling him two different milk filters, a couple boxes of disposable filters, and two milk pails. It was a good day for us because we knew it was just another way God was providing for our needs.
As Steve and his son were getting ready to leave he handed mom a wad of cash that was obviously much more than what mom said he owed. He gently said to "Keep the extra." and mom got teary eyed and told him how much it meant to us at that moment...
She didn't go into deep detail, Steve didn't need to know them. But we did, and God certainly did. I've only seen Steve once since then at a flea market in Brookville, IN, and didn't have an opportunity to talk to him, but I still wonder if he knows of the effect he had on me and my family that day. I wonder if he knew any of everything we were going through at the time. I wonder if he knew what that extra bit of cash meant to my mom that day. I'm not sure about any of this, but what I do know is that Steve saw a need and he tried to help meet it in the most practical way possible.
One very simple act of kindness that still resonates in our hearts today. A small thing that causes me to be thankful and praise God for his provision.
I got to thinking about following the Lord's leading "on the spot" and what that could possible mean for people if they were to do that. If I was to do that.
Would I be willing to give somebody extra money simply because I sensed a need? Even if I didn't know for sure they needed it? Would I be willing to open my home to a needy person and let them sleep in my bed, eat my food, share my things? Would I be willing to give someone a ride in my car? Would I be willing to bake a meal for someone that needed one? Would I be willing to give my time and effort to bless someone who needed it? Would I be wiling to stop what I was doing to share the love of Christ in such a simple manner?
Talking about it easy, at least for me. Doing it is a whole different story. A lot of us don't even have opportunities like the above everyday...or do we? I sincerely believe that if we ask God to place people into our lives that we can show his love to that he will indeed do it. Do we ask God to let us meet these kinds of people? Do we pay attention to them when they are before us? Or are we so selfish and into ourselves that we don't even see them?
For a lot of us, we don't have a lot of extra money to give to the people standing on the side of the road asking for help. We don't have funds that we can donate to God-loving organizations. We don't have hundreds of dollars to pay a family's electric bill...but we all have something. And I think that more often than not, what people need most is not money, but simply another person to come along side them and tell them they have a God who loves them and cares for them.
I think we assume people need a lot. A lot of money. A lot of time. A lot of food. A lot of...anything. But in fact, if our goal is to bless them, they just need more than we are giving, which right now is nothing. A person standing on the corner of a busy road holding up a sign isn't asking you for your home, your car, your time. They are just asking for a dollar, two dollars, five dollars. Why is that so much to us? We easily spend that a few times a week just getting our unnecessary Starbucks. Why is it so much for us to pull over and give them an encouraging word, a hug, a handshake, a few dollars? What has come over us that we are so against showing love in the most human way possible? The way God wants us to show it.
We have no idea of the effects one sentence of encouragement can have on a person. We have no idea how it will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Just like Steve in my life, it was just a few extra dollars, not a huge amount of money, but it blessed us.
Why do we think we have to wait until we can pay a whole bill for somebody else? Why do we think we have to wait until we can offer somebody a guest room in our home before we let them in? The truth is, we don't. Five dollars can go so much further than one hundred dollars if given when God prompts you to give. A couch in the living room can provide the best place for a homeless person to sleep than any sort of guest room could ever provide if offered and given at the exact moment when God whispers "Do it."
It's uncomfortable giving money to people you don't know. Are they going to waste it? Buy drugs with it? It's hard opening our homes to strangers. Are they going to steal my stuff in the night? Are they going to throw off my evening? On BeingFilled.com, Chuck talks about how giving is a command and about how many who claim to follow Christ simply just ignore this command.
Jesus’ instruction, “Give to everyone who asks of you,” is an absolute command with no exceptions made. If anyone at all asks, you are required to give. Next time you see someone begging, remember, it is not a nice suggestion to help them out, it is a mandate.
Choosing not to give to someone who asks is sin.
But this command comes with a promise. When we obey, we have full assurance that God will provide for us as well. Let’s stop making excuses and start trusting God.
Chuck is right, giving IS a command. It's not a suggestion, not just a nice, loving thing to do. It's a must. We have to do it. “Give to everyone who asks of you.” (Luke 6:30, NASB)
We have no idea the effects that giving can have on people. We are not in their lives the way they are. But what we do know is that we can be a blessing to them in a huge way if we simply obey this command and actually live Christ like we're supposed to.
Being a "Christian" is oh so much more than just going to church on Sunday, praying, and reading our Bibles. Being a Christian is living out Christ. I know I fail to do this daily. How many people walk by me every single day that I could have reached out to? How many people are in my life right now that I can be reaching out to? What kinds of opportunities is God going to open up for me in the future? Do I dare pray for them to enter my life? Will I take up the challenge of being uncomfortable in order to be a blessing in somebodies life?
I say yes.
It's a challenge that's a little hard to swallow, but who ever said that doing difficult things would be comfortable? You certainly can't find that in the Bible. In fact, I would say for the most part, following Christ will be one of the best hardest things ever. But it's definitely the most rewarding and fulfilling because we are living for something more than ourselves.
You and I have so much to be thankful for. Even if you yourself are struggling financially right now (or struggling in a totally different way), there is somebody out there who is worse off than you, and they need your love. However God is calling you to give it to them, you have that call to answer. Like Chuck talks about in his blog post:
Remember that everything you have was given to you by God in the first place. And Jesus here said that God gives to us in accordance with how we give to others. This does not mean that we should give selfishly with the idea that we will then become rich. It does mean that we should always give selflessly, knowing that God will provide for us as well. Jesus instructed us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).
Something so small like a few extra dollars from Steve still has an impact on my life. Something small that God is calling you to do for somebody else could have the same kind of impact on their life. The simple reminder that they have a Savior who is looking out for them, who has not forgotten them, who loves them dearly. Be thankful for what you have, and look for ways to bless others with everything you have...even when it seems hard. Surrender your selfishness, give of your belongings, give freely and willingly. God will take care of you...and besides...we are not living for things on this earth. We are living for a greater hope, a hope and promise of a life spent with Jesus. What are the things of this earth to us anyway? They should be nothing. Vapors in the wind, here today, gone tomorrow. No emotional attachments to the things of this world, nothing that holds our heart here.
This is an incredible challenge for me. As I ponder these words I'm saying, I'm convicted that I don't do this nearly as well or as often as I should. I thank God for conviction and the chance to start living Christ like I'm supposed to be.
Giving of ourselves to bless others causes us to be thankful. Being thankful is a big deal to God. When I read Paul's letters I'm struck with how often he links thankfulness with prayer.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 5:15-17)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father... (Ephesians 5:15-20)
These are just a few among the many instances where Paul puts thanksgiving in there right with everything else. Thanksgiving is important, and we need to show it all year long, not just in a certain season. Even if we are stripped naked, without a home, without a car, lonely and without companionship, we still have everything in the world to be thankful for because God has offered us atonement for our sins and a greater hope than anything this world or it's comforts have to offer us.
Because he lives!
*Note: After I was finished writing this I was getting some links together for a Facebook comment and on a good blog called Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers I found a list called 50 Random Acts of Kindness that I thought went along well with this blog post. Go ahead and check it out here!
*Note: (Added 11-28-12) Tweeted by @ChuckMcKnight: "This is so good! "Here's a Money Tip: Be Reckless" http://bit.ly/V8YFXN (by @air1brant)" YOU have to check out this link written by Brant over at the radio station Air1. CLICK HERE to read.