Give First

Since we came into this world, we have had not had to tell ourselves to demand or seek out the things we want, but rather we have had to learn how to deal with all the things we want to figure out if we really need it. We might have come face-to-face with the reality that food was a necessity, but the black patent leather shoes weren't; the school clothes were, but the frilly dresses and designer jeans weren't; the reliable means of transportation was a necessity, but the shiny new car every other year was not.  We will often struggle with trying to decipher the difference between need and want throughout life - simply because the circumstances change and we are called upon to change with them.  In time, we can become a little confused between the two, especially when we aren't aware of this nasty little thing called "greed".  It rears its ugly head more often than we'd like to admit and we struggle with this thing called "contentment" more often than we'd like to admit.  The words we need to embrace:  "Life isn't defined by what we have - but by whose we are!"

Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”  He replied, “Mister, what makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?”  Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”  Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods, and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’  “Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’  “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.”  (Luke 12:13-21)

Isn't it so like us to go running to someone with some authority in life to "arbitrate" our differences?  This man didn't know Jesus - he just saw him as this great authority who was drawing in the masses, thinking he could intervene on his behalf to persuade his brother to give him what he was not able to get on his own.  We know one brother feels he has not received "his fair share" of the family inheritance and he wants it!  What we also know is the very evident tendency of Jesus to speak truth into a moment, exposing heart and soul pretty quickly!  So, when Jesus responds to the man to beware of greed in his life, he probably knows the inward struggle of this man's heart!  I have been in those same moments of time - coming to Jesus for what I thought was the right thing for my life only to have him expose something within my heart that wasn't allowing me to see things correctly!  In that moment of "correction", I got a little huffy and put-out with Jesus, but within a short while, I realized my attitude was impairing my ability to see what Jesus wanted me to really see!  

As was Jesus' custom, he launches into a story to "drive home" the warning he gives about not being defined by what we have (what we possess).  It is another "word picture" to help us realize the intent of his instruction, simply because we "get" words better when we "see them" in a picture!  Building new barns would be something the crowd understood, for these were places to keep their harvest - safe from predatory birds and animals; shut up against the weather.  Everyone who worked the land likely had a barn of sorts - maybe not a fancy one, but something which allowed for storage of the season's crops.  It doesn't seem like much could go wrong with building a new barn, does it?  After all, if you have enough grain to fill the first barn to overflowing, it stands to reason you need a second one to contain the excess.  The problem is, we don't really need the excess, do we?  Maybe this is what he was really trying to teach - our excess isn't doing us much good, but it could do a whole lot of good to the ones around us with tremendous need!

I subscribe to the teachings of "give first, save second, and live off the rest". This doesn't mean I figure out how much I want to live on, then determine what I can give and save in response to what I want to live on.  What it means is that I have determined my reasonable standard of living - what some might call a budget.  Our "excess" is not what defines us - it isn't going to provide anything of lasting value to our life.  What does define us is our position "IN" Christ - a child of God, loved and adored by him, cared for under the shadow of his wing, and safe in his sheltering arms.  I kind of chuckle when I go by a neighbor's house, not because he is particularly "funny", but because of the priorities he seems to have established for his life.  You see, he bought the lot next door to him, tore the house down, erected a two-story garage complete with these fancy lifts which allow him to park cars on both levels!  Exactly how many cars can you drive?  Unless I am missing something, we are all only capable of driving one car!

My neighbor subscribed to the farmer's philosophy - bigger barns make for "more stuff" he can amass!  As is always the case with Jesus, he points us to the importance of relationship, not resources.  Let's not lose sight of this important lesson in our own lives - relationship first!  First with Jesus, next with each other, then in turn touching those in our lives who cross our paths. This is better than bigger barns any day!  Just sayin!


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