What are you unwilling to give to God? What would it take for you to worship God generously?
I met Joseph when he came for graduate studies from Kenya. We spent a few months building friendship by sharing our background, and he told me about the impact of his father on his life. Joseph said his father influenced him deeply by how devoted he was to know the Living God, by knowing the Scriptures thoroughly. His dad modeled a love for the Bible and tirelessly read it, studied it, meditated on it, memorized it, and sought to live according to it. He taught the Word to his seven children and instilled in them the same love and holy habits he had developed.
Joseph told me one story that when his dad was a young man, he experienced the struggle and cost of living generously for God. His father’s family had endured yet another drought that made farming basically impossible in southern Kenya. The lack of water had killed many of the cattle, and the people of Kenya were in failing health due to water deprivation.
Desperate for work, Joseph’s dad left home, hoping to find a way to support himself and his family. After weeks of searching, he ended up in Nairobi with a church that helped provide a place to stay and food, while he looked for work.
The church was working to raise funds for a building expansion project and the pastor was challenging the people to give sacrificially and generously to the effort. Joseph’s dad wanted to give, but he had no money to contribute. Still without employment, he didn’t have spare change, bread, or anything to place before God on the altar.
As he wept in the church pew about his lack of an offering, he remembered that he actually did have a few possessions. He had his clothes, a mat to sleep on, and an old canteen for carrying water. Leaving his shirt and coat at the altar, he walked away with nothing but his T-shirt, pants, belt, and his one pair of shoes. Incidentally, the pastor’s sermon that day was about the woman in Bethany who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and perfume. Read Matthew 26:6-13.
Joseph’s dad’s story is very similar, isn’t it? Both he and the woman gave what they had – not under pressure, threat, or in an effort to curry favor from God. They both did it out of love for God. What they did was done simply, quietly, and yet extravagantly. They modeled something many of us often forget – that God is worth it – that He is the exalted Creator of the Universe. He is the Sovereign Ruler, all-powerful, wise, just, forgiving, and loving toward all He has made.
Joseph told me that his father initially did not tell anyone about his act of worship, even his parents or siblings at the time. He thought that asking God to replace his shirt and coat would undermine the gift. God however, thought differently, and His generosity would once again be expressed. Within days, Joseph’s dad found a job and he was provided new clothes.
Joseph and his siblings heard this story many years later and were profoundly affected. Such acts of generosity – whether shirts given or perfume poured out – reveal the deep love of a person’s heart. Joseph told me that he and his siblings are all ardent followers of Jesus today, because of the example set by their father.
Are you willing to literally give the shirt – or coat – off your back, to honor the Lord for who He is? Live communally. Generosity is a reflection of the heart. Your giving does affect others.
Love is a verb,
P.S. This will be the last MM for June. I will resume writing in July.