By Tom Carter, Associate Pastor
I have recently been involved in several conversations where friends and colleagues have mentioned that they are surprised that needy people don’t always accept donations and help they offer. In fact, this surprising (to some) truth often leads to comments about how folks “can’t understand” how people with “nothing” think they can be choosy. For instance, why wouldn’t a hungry person want my donation of no salt short cut green beans that expired only last year? Or that old coat that I am embarrassed to wear but a “poor” person should be super grateful to have?
I wonder sometimes if we should be a little more introspective when we decide to give away things we wouldn’t and don’t want. Think about it for a moment, when the budget is lean, do your desires and tastes change? Do you suddenly want to wear clothes that don’t fit and eat gross food? In fact, once a person has sunk so low into despair that they lose the preferences that are part of their identity (i.e. let themselves go), they may need more help than money or food.
In Genesis chapters 27 and 28 we see Jacob, son of Isaac quickly goes from a tricky spoiled son, to a pauper with no more than a rock for a pillow. One might be quick to think that a person so low might be ready to accept anything they are given, but that is not the case. When God reveals the truth of the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob, he is grateful, but not so much that he doesn’t bargain with God for what he wants. Jacob, because he remains sane, still has the natural desire to flourish. And you know what? God still blesses him!
There is a fine line between what many Americans see as “entitlement” and the simple desire to have what one wants in life. Remember, when you give, you are making choices too. Each of us decides who we “have to” get gifts for, and who we “want to” give gifts to, and then decide what we can “afford” to spend on each. I have never met a parent who doesn’t spend more on their child for Christmas than they do for their boss. Right…? Is this because my child is somehow worth more as a human being than my employer? No, but they are worth more to mom and dad for sure and are favored accordingly.
However you choose look at it, it is important to remember that as long as a person has the will to live they will have desires and preferences. And, while those preferences can be suppressed, they won’t go away while hope remains. If a person has fallen to the point of being ready to “take whatever they can get” they are going to need much more than food. If we want to show people that they are valuable and maybe have the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them then we must also be ready to share our best, just as He did!