There is an elderly gentleman in my neighborhood, who lives alone, and seems to spend most of his days hitting plastic golf balls in his yard, or feeding stray cats who appear every evening on his front porch. When we moved in to our new home a few years ago, he at first appeared distant, not very friendly. Since then, I have learned that this is just his way. He had a severe brain injury many years ago, so he doesn’t relate to others like you and I would. But, he has a big heart, and is very generous. See, most of my neighbors are elderly, and thus on a fixed income. So money is usually tight for these folks, as it is for most of us. This kind gentleman has a daughter who brings him boxes of produce and bread every week. And, he gladly shares these with every one, including myself. He could be selfish, and keep this bounty all to himself, but he doesn’t. We are blessed by his generosity, but I believe he is likewise favored in the eyes of the Lord, as described in Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23:
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all. Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor. Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the LORD pleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.”
This generous neighbor could turn around and try to sell the produce, or pick and choose who he gives it to, but instead he freely shares with whomever needs it. I know many of you may donate to a worthy cause, such as an orphanage, or maybe you buy gifts for a Secret Santa child during the holidays. Yet, when a scruffy bum approaches you on the street as you rush through your day, do you speak harsh words to him, or her……do you even politely say “No” when they ask for spare change……or do you just rush past, having already passed judgment on someone you really do not know? But, then you see a group of school children collecting money for a field trip, and decide to donate, considering them a better use of your time and money? I’m not saying we should not support our children in their endeavors, but I just want to caution you to heed the message in James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17:
“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Please do support our children, or those in orphanages, or Secret Santa, but also do not ignore your next door neighbor, or the dearheart who comes up to you on the street. Just as my neighbor exemplified in his generosity, to pick and chose who receives our money, time, or gifts, is to serve in judgment over others. As we all know, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” is not only commanded by God, but should serve as a basis for all we say and do in our daily lives. Because what good is it to say we have faith, we believe in our heavenly Father, if we do nothing else but spend our days worrying about just ourselves? “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” So, what works, or actions, have you committed to doing here lately to help others?