What I have I give to you

By Kersley Fitzgerald

The rant was vitriolic, heart-breaking, unfair, desperate, and, I thought, not a little manipulative. It's a long, sordid story, but she was basically calling out all her Christian family and acquaintances for not helping more. For watching her family's not-so-slow descent into despair without throwing her a lifeline. I'm not exactly sure what she was asking for. Letters and books for her son in prison? Help watching her grandkids? I'm still not sure.

The audience responded meekly. Her sister apologized for not being there more, as did their mom. I could practically see the red faces and averted eyes, despite the fact the whole thing happened on Facebook.

It brought to mind an encounter Peter and John had in Acts 3:1-10:
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms.
When I first read the post, I felt guilty, too. Aren't we supposed to visit the imprisoned? Feed the hungry? And spread Christ's love? And I couldn't blame her for asking. It's perfectly biblical to ask. If we believers were shirking our duty, it was in her right to call us on it.

But something didn't set right with me. It took a couple of weeks before I realized what it was.
And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.
This is powerful, and I think no less applicable today than it was back then for Pete and John. Our ability to help others is not in time or money — those are just tools. It's in the power of God to work in lives.

She didn't want that. She wanted nothing to do with the only One Who could really help and heal her family.

She wanted our money, our time, our service, even our praise of her as a great and sacrificial matriarch of a wounded tribe, but she did not want our Savior. She had made several other posts that showed her disrespect and animosity toward God. I'm not even convinced she's really an atheist — I think she's just mad she never got what she thinks she needed in life.

When Jesus sent out the twelve in Matthew 10:5-15, He told them, "And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town" (vs. 14). In Mark 6, surrounded by people who had watched Him grow up yet did not believe in Him, Jesus "could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief."

I honestly don't know what this means — that Jesus could do no miracles because of their unbelief. I don't know if the Holy Spirit withdrew His power, or if God instructed Jesus to move on. I do know that Jesus' friends and family would not accept His power and authority, and so He could help in only a minimal way. In the same way, I had no money to give. She lived too far away for me to give her time. And whenever someone else broached the topic of Jesus, she pushed them away. I had nothing to give of any worth that she would accept.

So I packed up my guilt, ignored the post, and went on my way.

The sad thing is, it doesn't take much for Jesus to work. Faith of a mustard seed. The smallest bit of hope. Even just a heart that's open to seeing what will happen. It doesn't take understanding or righteousness or any kind of spiritual maturity. That's evident with the conclusion of Peter and John's interaction with the lame man:
And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
There's no evidence the lame man had faith in Peter and John's power before he was healed, but there's great evidence his heart was soft toward God. That was enough for God to work in a powerful way.

I'm not saying we shouldn't help unbelievers. Or even unbelievers who are hostile toward God. It is good and right to help others. It's good and right to give money, time, counsel. But it's essential that we do so wisely. Let God determine who needs help and what kind we are to give. There are people out there who are one glass of water away from a saving relationship with Jesus. We don't have to waste a river on those who have chosen to harden their own hearts. Send prayers instead.

Image credit: BlindPew; Creative Commons

TagsHardships  |  Ministry-Church  |  Personal-Life  |  Personal-Relationships

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Published 3-10-14