Giving

Good morning, Friends!

I love children. They’re one of the reasons I still have any faith left at all sometimes!

I heard a story once about a new family that had just moved into town. Their son came to Sunday School but he didn’t seem happy. His Sunday School teacher asked him if anything was wrong.

The boy replied no, that he was going to go fishing but his dad told him that he needed to go to church instead.

The teacher was very pleased and asked the boy if his father had explained to him why it was more important to go to church than to go fishing.

The boy replied, “Yes, he did. My dad said that he didn’t have enough bait for the both of us!”

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.

Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.

– Matthew 10:39-42

A lot of the time, we think that big gifts are more important than little ones.

We think that people who give a lot of money are pleasing God more than people who don’t give so much. Sometimes we even think that grown-ups are more important than children.

Trouble is, that’s not the way Jesus thinks.

Jesus told a story once about a shepherd who lost a sheep. The shepherd had lots more of them. Almost a hundred, in fact. But one sheep was lost, Jesus said. So the shepherd left all the other sheep, the ones who’d never gone astray, and went out and searched all over till he found the one that was lost.

“That’s how God thinks,” Jesus said. “The one that’s lost is just as important as all the other ones, put together.”

Prophets are very important people in the Bible. They know what God is thinking, how God is feeling, and they tell other people all about it. Prophets are worthy of a great reward in heaven.

If you’re honest and do everything right, that’s a great thing. Righteousness and honesty are all too rare in our world today. It’s a great goal in life to be honest and upright – especially if you’re humble about it!

But Jesus says that God notices even small acts of kindness. As Jesus says to us this morning, if all you do is to give a cup of cold water to one of God’s little ones, that’s a great thing. And God will reward you.

Giving is important, no matter who we do it for, no matter how small the gift may seem.

You know, a smile costs nothing. But think about how often a smile can lift people up.

An apology costs nothing. It doesn’t cost any money. It might cost you a little bit of pride. But an apology can be the greatest gift at times. It can restore a broken relationship. It can heal better than any medicine.

Listening is free. All it takes is a little time. But you all know how much it matters, to have someone listen to you. So many people feel so isolated, so alone. Just having someone stop what they’re doing, and give you their complete attention, without saying anything, can actually save a life. Just ask anyone who’s gone through grief, or depression. They’ll confirm that.

The point isn’t how big or expensive the gift we give is. The point is that we’re giving, and that we’re giving because we want to be like Jesus.

A listening ear. An open heart. A healing hand. An eye that notices the expression on another person’s face. A willingness to put ourselves in the other person’s place. Often that’s all it takes.

Jesus himself was not rich. As far as we know, he didn’t own any property. He didn’t have any stocks or investments.

What Jesus did have, was compassion, and mercy. What he shared was the good news that God is very near. What he shared was the peace that overflowed from the deep springs in his heart.

Those words, “the peace of Christ” were not just an empty phrase for the people who knew Jesus. It was a peace that they felt, a peace that came from the unlimited love and overflowing joy that Jesus had. When you were in Jesus’ presence, you felt that peace, like nothing you’d ever felt before.

The littlest gifts matter, Jesus said. A word of prayer. A word of faith. A word of hope.

Even a cup of cold water – how simple is that? But you know, if you’re sick, or thirsty, or all tired out, a cup of cold water can be such a gift. A cup of cold water can seem like the most important thing in all the world. And the person who gives it, can be such a blessing.

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me,” Jesus said. “And whoever welcomes me, welcomes the one who sent me. . .”

That’s a really powerful equation.

Nobody can see God. God is invisible. No one today can even see Jesus. But people see Jesus, and people see God, through us, through the things that we do, and through the gifts that we give.

What we’re doing this morning, through these little boxes of gifts and toys and school supplies, may not seem like much. But to the children who receive them, they’re like treasures.

Reaching out, to children like that, is more important than most of the other things we do around here. Whatever we do for a child’s sake, for a child’s needs, for a child’s faith, is infinitely more important, than all the religious fights people get into.

One of my favorite songwriters, the Canadian Stan Rogers, said it very clearly. In one of his songs, he says, “Causes are ashes when children lie slain. . .” That’s something to think about this weekend. (Stan Rogers, The House of Orange)

It doesn’t matter if they’re Christian children, or Muslim children, or Jewish or Hindu children. God loves them all.

I can’t tell you how many things get done, in the name of Jesus, which don’t honor Jesus.

Because Jesus cares more about the children, than about anything else. When children go hungry or thirsty, when children are forgotten, or abused, that’s something God cares about. Helping children is more important than being right, or perfect, or anything else.

You want a reward in Heaven? Just help a child. Love a child. Take care of a child’s needs. Help a child feel safe. Teach a child to read. Give a child something to eat or drink. Help a child feel they’re loved, mo matter who they are.

That’s what we’re trying to do here today. Really, that should be what we’re doing all he time.

Let’s take all this into open worship, and let’s continue to pray for all the children as we worship together.

Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Brown

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