We probably all have driven by a man or woman on the side of the road, holding a sign which reads something like, "Down on luck. Spare a buck?" These days, we may see more of these folks than we once did - with the economy such as it is. We used to call these folks "panhandlers" or "beggars", now we call them the unemployed. They make their need known - it is evident by their being there with the sign. There are others in our life who don't make their need so obvious, but their need is real nonetheless.
Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors. (Deuteronomy 15:10-11 The Message)
We all have the ability to meet another's need - maybe not with our finances, but in some other practical way. I really enjoy the second Sunday of the month at our church. It is our day to bring in food and toiletries for the food bank. We are given a list the week before of items they have special need of. Then we each bring in bags of stuff - enough to fill a fairly good sized trailer. Over the summer months, the food bank realizes a decrease in giving because many folks are out of town on vacation. So, our church takes up a challenge to "fill the shelves" in a month. This year, the challenge was 3,000 pounds of foodstuff. We had a goal of bringing in items weekly throughout the month - attempting to reach this goal. That's a LOT of stuff! But...the story doesn't end there! We did this in the first week! And...the week's which followed resulted in thousands more! Not only did the church respond by meeting the need - they surpassed the need with an abundance of blessing!
This is exactly what God had in mind as he spoke with Moses about giving freely and spontaneously. The word of caution to Israel was to not develop a "stingy" heart. If there is a reluctance in our giving, it is not genuine at all. So, God challenges them (and us) to give freely and spontaneously. The way we handle the needs of others is what prompts how God will bless us! I know there are times when the second Sunday creeps up on me, catching me unaware. I often go through the pantry shelves scouring for things I can bring with me to church which will meet the need. At other times, I have planned well, purchasing extra when I go to the store. Either way, the "need" is being met right? Not exactly. When I spend some time in forethought, the blessing I get out of the giving experience is a little more satisfying!
The telling part of this passage is the sentence sandwiched in the middle. "There are always going to be poor and needy people among you." Poor and needy - right in our own backyard. In truth, we probably don't need our church to sponsor a "giving opportunity" in order to find the poor and needy! They are our neighbors, co-workers, and the lady in line at the grocery store! Yep, even the grocery store.
I was blessed to hear my daughter tell me a story a few months back about how God moved her heart to purchase a man's groceries one day. Now, she has to cut coupons, shop adds, and lives on a pretty tight budget herself, so when she told me she bought this man's groceries, I knew it cost her something beyond the "excess" she had in her wallet - it probably cost her a little of her "spending money" for the week. Yet, it was his response I want us to focus on for a moment. He could not stop asking her why she was doing this act of kindness. You see, most people aren't used to people even noticing their need, much less sacrificing a little to meet it! It catches them unaware when someone actually sees their need.
A few weeks back, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. I needed something for supper as I forgot to thaw anything. So, I intended it to be a quick trip in and out. Therefore, I got in the "fast lane" for checkout. There stood a woman, scouring every nook and cranny of her purse for enough change to buy a bouquet of flowers and a large balloon pronouncing "Get Well" to someone she must have known. Now, being a healthcare provider myself, my heart broke. I recognized someone in this woman's life was not doing well, and she desired to bless them. She eventually looked up, told the cashier she'd have to take the flowers of the bill and she'd only be able to take the balloon. I did not have to think twice - I reached in my wallet, produced the money for the flowers and asked the cashier to give the woman her flowers. On the way home, I could only think about who would be receiving those flowers. I prayed for them, for the woman who desired so much to be a blessing in someone else's life, and I found great joy in the special opportunity God had given me to be able to give freely and spontaneously.
We probably all have these opportunities. We just need to be sensitive to the needs around us. Not everyone carries a sign! Sometimes we need to "read" the signs which are not so evident. Then, find a way to bless! In so doing, we are opening ourselves up to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world.
This is not a long blog this morning because I just wanted to bring you a couple of seed thoughts about being a blessing right where you are at - with those who are crossing your path today. Someone may need a buck to make it through. Another might just be blessed to find you have just purchased their Starbuck's on your way through the drive-through. Whatever the opportunity - seize it! You never know when the meal you buy, the flowers you send on their way, or the moments you take just listening to someone will be the very thing which speaks volumes to them about the love of Christ!