By Sara Parker
Apparently I should have screened the Bible before setting off on my goal of reading the book of Proverbs with my 6- and 8-year-old sons. You see, the New International Readers Version is a lot more frank and easy to understand than the New International Version—and a large portion of the book of Proverbs focuses on avoiding adultery.
I wound up skipping over sentences and words, and the boys never noticed. But the topic did bring up a lot of deep questions about adultery, and I sure was not prepared to answer them for my 1stand 3rdgraders. Oops. I knew I had to let the project go when I opened the Bible one night last week, and my younger son slapped his hands to his face and mumbled, “Oh, I HOPE there is no more about adultery in this chapter.”
That said, I am on vacation right now visiting family and I don’t have a lot of time. But a verse I read today inspired me to give you a challenge:
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.
When I met my husband, he was appalled at the dollars I would give out to people standing on corners. “You do realize it’s probably a scam, right?” he would ask me. “You know they make a business out of it.” “You gave him five dollars? What happened to the dollar bill?” Now, this from the man who actually encouraged me to tithe ten percent, which I had never done before.
I remember my first glimpse of poverty. I was around 5 or 6 years old, living in Thailand with my family for a few years. Mothers with very sick, very silent children were a common sight on the streets of Bangkok.
It was devastating to me. Since that moment, I have always felt a tremendous burden for anyone without a home.
During a field trip to Washington D.C. in the 5thgrade, a homeless man called to us, saying he was just hungry, and needed a little food. I didn’t have any money, but I asked my mom if I could give him the rest of my lunch (a half a sandwich and a bag of chips, I think). She okayed the idea, and I walked back a few steps to deliver the food to this man. My heart beat fast, so filled with that excitement and warmth that spreads through your veins with the chance to help someone. I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was offended by my sandwich. He thrust it back at me, and said he didn’t want my leftovers. I walked away, shoulders slumped. Hurt, confused. If he was truly homeless, and truly hungry, why wouldn’t he want my leftovers?
Somewhere along the way, someone reminded me that Jesus said to give if someone asks. Not necessarily if someone really, truly needs it.
Give to the one who asks, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
It was at that point that I decided to give when people ask, if I could. My husband eventually adopted the idea as well. Once, at around Christmas, a cashier at Target wound up pouring out her very tragic story to me, and I knew exactly what I should do. If you are willing to listen, you’ll know what to do too. I don’t always know what to do, though, because I am not always in the mood to listen, and I don’t always make the time to listen. And sometimes, I’m ashamed to say, I know what to do, but I fail to follow through—for lack of time or courage or interest. But when you seize those moments, those opportunities to give to others, regardless of the how’s or why’s of their present circumstances, you’ll get a glimpse of God’s unconditional love and compassion.
And, by the way, I have sometimes been on the receiving end. I’ll never forget the very difficult night when I made a run to Starbucks, though I knew I shouldn’t spend the money. It was a lonely night without hope, and the person in the vehicle in front of me paid for my drink. I felt like I’d been hugged by Jesus Himself. A silly thing perhaps, but meaningful nonetheless. Pray for an opportunity to give this week. I’d love to hear about it.