On July 13, a group of us left for a mission trip to both Laredo and El Cenzio, Texas. It was an amazing experience! Especially since I didn’t get shot for quoting from Spongebob . . . more than once: “Can we say that plants from Texas are dumb? Can we say that shoes from Texas are dumb?”
We got to put on a VBS, work on a house that had been burnt pretty badly, and stripped and reshingled a roof, all while sharing the love of Jesus. I may have gotten heat exhaustion that Saturday, but besides that, the sore muscles, and the heat, it was a really neat experience.
Then Sunday came.
My mentor began his Sunday sermon and slapped me in the face with it. He talked about when we help others, it’s easy to believe that we are better than them–a snare that had gotten me good. I felt like a foolish rabbit that had darted for the brightest orange carrot that was surrounded by a cage and had warning signs posted all around it.
I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s easy to play the game of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ It’s easy to believe I’m better than those who I help because I’m dressed nicer or can afford nicer stuff, when it’s anything but true. I mean, the residents of Laredo and El Cenzio had blessed us with so many smiles, food, and even a plaque. Material wise, they didn’t have much, yet I believe they blessed us way more than what we had done for them. As Yiṭro sang in The Prince of Egpyt:
To look at his life through heaven’s eyes
And that’s why we share all we have with you
Though there’s little to be found
When all you’ve got is nothing
There’s a lot to go around
How true those words are. For many times, isn’t it easier to give when we don’t have much stuff, than when we have accumulated much more?
As my mentor continued to speak, while simultaneously shaming me, I couldn’t help but think of the story of the widow’s offering: And he [Jesus] sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” Mark 12:41-44.
The Bible doesn’t say, but these men who were donating lots and lots of money, may have been making a show of it. I can see them lining up with their many servants, or blowing trumpets, or jingling their sacks of coins as they made their richly contributions to the temple. And then here comes this widow, who only has two small coins. That’s it, her whole lively hood, and she donates it away to God–wow! And Jesus says that this widow, has given more than any of the others who we would believe are much more wealthy.
For Jesus, has a way of turning things upside down. For his Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of man. For as YHWH told Samuel when he was searching to anoint the next king of Israel:“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his statures, because I have rejected him. For YHWH sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but YHWH looks on the heart” I Samuel 16:7b. It’s so, so easy to base our worth on what we have, yet money and things are not what’s important to God. He doesn’t care about gold; He cares about you.
For me, it’s a challenge to remember this. And being as stubborn and as slow of a learner as I am, it is a lesson which I need to constatnly be taught/be reminded of. Yet though the slap stings, it’s also comforting. For it’s amazing to be reminded no matter what I own or how much money I make, I have a Father who will love me no matter what. Who doesn’t judge me by the size of my house or wallet or the amount in my bank account, but loves me for being me.