“Hey, dad, can I take Pike down to the mailbox?” COVID-19 aside, Kacie and I travel a lot, so we love having a townhome. My ten-year-old, Samuel, loves being old enough to walk down to the mailbox in the mornings – with our very protective Dutch Shepherd, Pike. It makes him feel big. I didn’t think anything about it. I didn’t catch the smirk on his face until thinking about it in retrospect. He’s a Moscrip boy, I should have known he was up to something.
He returned about twenty minutes later holding a piece of paper folded in half and fighting back an excited smile, “Dad, look what someone sent!” The paper was a note he had made for Kacie and me on my computer. He used one of the graphic design programs I’ve been teaching him. Samuel had woken up early that morning and created it himself, selecting an artistic font, background color, and everything.
One of the values I try to instill in my children is that we use our talents and gifts to help others. Although this is not the mindset being preached by our culture, I truly believe that the only real value in receiving is for the purpose of benefiting others.
Our giving of the excess we have is not limited to money or objects. It applies to our very being.
Samuel using his new ability to navigate a few programs on my computer for the sake of expressing love for others makes me excited that he “gets it.” He, as much as a ten year old can grasp, is starting to understand that our abilities are useless, unless used for others. In fact, Jesus presents the entirety of God’s message as being condensed into two questions by which our entire life should be lived: (1) Does this express love for God? (2) Does this express love for other people?
The message of Jesus begins with John the Baptist proclaiming that the way to escape the punishment of God is to repent of self-centeredness and give of your excess to help your fellow humans. Luke 3:10-12 records him preaching, “10 And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11 In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise’” (NRSV). Jesus then teaches his followers that God’s judgment will be declared based on our willingness to live in the same manner. Matthew 25 records God’s judgement being hinged on this lifestyle, “45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (NRSV). Although it is common for folks in the USA to level political accusations when this message is proclaimed, it is not Marxism and it is not Socialism to preach this message. It is the message of Christ. The message of giving selflessly is the primary message of the New Testament. Behind loving God and others with our entire being, everything else is presented as secondary.
The joy of watching my son, Samuel, understand the concept that we use our abilities and what we have to express love for others gives me so much hope as a father. My hope is that it is the beginning of a mindset he will maintain throughout his life, that will be at the core of his being.
Samuel excitedly handed me the letter, then gave a second one to Kacie. What did it say? It was a Happy “Layber” Day note of encouragement:
Happy Early Layber Day
To David and KC
Have a Great labor day. I wanted you to know how much we love you. You guys have been working so hard. You guys are so nice and kind. I love you guys so much and you are ever-loving. Have a great Layber day.
P.S. You guys are very amazing. Have a great labor day.
P.S.S. Guess who this is?
Let us, as Christians, make it a practice to return to the basics of Jesus’ message to love God and others with our entire being. How could your excess time, talent, or possessions change the day or life of another person? Maybe, when we master that basic teaching of Christ, then we can worry about all of the other stuff. There are enough people living for themselves; let’s show them a different way.
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