10-10-2008, 08:44 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Reisterstown, Maryland
Happy TGIF, friends. We are still enjoying an incredibly beautiful Fall day. God has certainly been blessing us with nice weather.
With all the financial crisis going on right now, thought to share this one today.
The story is told of a church meeting at which a wealthy man rose to tell the congregation about his faith. “I'm a millionaire,” he said. “And I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life.” He went on to recall the turning point of his faith. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar and was eagerly thinking of all the possibilities when he happened upon a church meeting. He found himself consumed by the message he heard that night, and when he saw the offering plate he knew that he would either have to give it all to God or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give everything he had to God. Looking back he knew that God had blessed this decision and made him a successful man.
When he finished his story an awed silence filled the room. As he returned to his seat an elderly woman leaned over to him and said: “I dare you to do it again.”
The moral of the story strikes visions of the weight of sacrifice upon the scales of monetary value; it would be far more difficult for the millionaire to now give up his millions than it was for the child to give up his dollar. Jesus encountered a similar sentiment when he told the rich young ruler to go and sell everything he owned; the young man “went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Matthew 19:22). As it stands, the story boldly illustrates the genuine hold our financial securities have on us; the thought of applying the same level of passion--giving all or nothing--at this place in the man’s life fills even the most generous with alarm.
But this story also betrays a common undercurrent in the torrent of thoughts often associated with munificence. The virtue extolled by Christ to “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” is one we have come to think of in negative terms. It is far more costly in our minds for the millionaire to give up his millions than the child to give up his dollar because a million is far more “costly” than a dollar. But here, we are considering the sacrifice strictly in sacrificial terms; the virtue of generosity is seen not as virtue in the true sense of the word, but as sacrifice, self-denial, or “giving up” something good and desirable.
Of course Jesus exposed our tendency to measure sacrifice and virtue upon the man made scales of monetary value in his admiration of the widow at the temple. “I tell you the truth,” he said of the woman who gave two copper coins, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others” (Luke 21:3). What we often miss in his love for this widow who “gave out of her poverty” is his love for a woman who gave upward instead of “giving up.” Giving positively instead of negatively, she was able to see herself giving to God instead of taking away from herself.
In this month marking the life of Francis of Assisi, within a world consumed by the unchallenged assumptions of consumerism, it is virtue to consider. Do we give positively of our resources, of our time and our possessions? Or do we merely give negatively, feeling obligated or even impressed with our giving? G.K. Chesterton describes the heart of St. Francis’ poverty in a manner that challenges both: “There was nothing negative about it; it was not a regimen or a stoical simplicity of life. It was not self-denial merely in the sense of self-control. It was as positive as a passion; it had all the air of being as positive as a pleasure... He plunged after poverty as men have dug madly for gold.”(1)
It is precisely this positive and passionate quality of those who have so embraced the words of Jesus that is a challenge to our consumer minds, a disruption to our seemingly endless desires, and a herald to a new kind of worship and giving. Virtue is not the absence of vice; it is not a negative pursuit. It is as positive as a passion, a promise as worth seeking as gold:
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory... everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”(2)
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) G.K. Chesterton, Saint Francis of Assisi (New York: Doubleday, 1957), 73-74.
(2) Matthew 19:28-30.