Friday, October 21, 2011

How Big Is Your Heart?

Or perhaps I should ask, "How deep is your pocket and how willing are you to reach into it, regardless of the amount, and give what you find to God?"

That's a tough question.  It forces us to examine ourselves, something most of us are unwilling to do for fear of what we might find there.

We want to think we have a big heart, don't we?  But the truth is that most of the time we look to our own wants and needs first without giving His a second thought.  Other times, we make a mental assessment of how our money and time will benefit us before giving it to God for Him to use.  If there is a little left over after addressing our own comforts and desires, then we will consider giving a pittance for a cause.  But only a pittance.  After all, we wouldn't want to completely empty our pockets...just in case an emergency or something else more important comes up.

I am once again reminded of the rich young man who approached Jesus and asked Him how he could find the way to eternal life (Matt 19:16-24).  As he patted himself on the back for his self-perceived obedience to the law, Jesus looked into his heart and revealed what was really lacking.  This man's pockets were deep, yet he only did that which was legally required of him and nothing more.  When Jesus told him to empty those pockets and give all he had to the poor, his unwillingness to do so was obvious as he walked away, dejected and sorrowful.  The cost was far too high for him.  He had no desire to rid himself of his wealth because he considered it his most prized possession and what it could do for him, not what it could do for Christ's kingdom.

The object lesson here is not that it is wrong or sinful to be wealthy.  Nor does it teach us that good works will somehow gain us a toehold in heaven (Gal. 2:15-16; Eph. 2:8-10).  Rather, Jesus'  intention was to reveal what truly ruled this young man's heart.  There is no doubt in my mind that, if his heart had been different and he had joyfully done what he was being asked, it would have been returned to him one-hundredfold (2Cor. 9:10-11).  That's the message we miss in this story.  Some of the blessings that are bestowed upon us are to be showered upon others in order that God will be glorified and His work completed.  And when we open our hearts to generously give our time or money for His purpose, He will turn around and continue to bless us.  Maybe not by refilling our pockets, but certainly in the reassurance that we aren't valuing material things above Him, and the evidence of His constant presence in our lives.

To be honest, I am no different than the rich young man, other than the fact that he had more money than I do.  I can make all the excuses in the world to justify what little I do for God - a dwindling savings account, the economy, joblessness, giving to my family who really don't need it, first meeting my own comforts.  But none of them satisfy the guilt I often feel when I see others in such great need.  I live like a king compared to some.  There are times when their hopelessness screams from the images I see or the words I read, and conviction that maybe I'm not doing enough washes over me.  I consider that a good thing, though.  It means that God has opened my eyes and ears and that my heart is being conformed to better serve Him.  Hopefully, it's getting bigger, and my fear of being left without at my age is being exchanged while I'm still here for joy in sharing what I do have.

It goes without saying that everyone who has a hand out wanting it to be filled are not necessarily where you should give your time and money.  It is also worth repeating that good works will not gain you favor with God.  Those works of your own  are seen by Him as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) that will be burned life chafe and their ashes blown away in the wind.  Only His works that we joyfully perform for Him will bring us a lasting and eternal reward.  But, I would bet the ranch that somewhere there is a place or a person He has in mind that could use your help and He might be waiting for you to take the challenge.

So, how big is your heart?  Five dollars, here; a pocket full of change, there?   I'm not trying to send everyone on a guilt trip.  It's not my business how you spend your money, or the amount you place in the offering plate, anymore than how you think I should spend mine (2Cor. 9:6-8).  But ask yourself if you really need that latte, dinner and a movie, or a bigger and better something that you think will improve your life.  Look around you and count the things the LORD has already blessed you with.  Then broaden your horizon and, through new eyes, look at the possibilities a dollar or two, or a few moments spent, would make in the life of someone else.

I have begun doing this merely because the LORD brought someone into my life that has caused me to reexamine how big my heart truly is.  I think when He created me, a corner of my heart was reserved especially for this person.  But it was slumbering until the appropriate time of my life that He had determined for me came around, then He awakened it to be used for His glory, His work.  Without a second thought to what I had in my pocket, I grabbed the opportunity to be a part of His plan, even if it's only what I perceive to be a small and seemingly insignificant role.

It was all God's doing, not mine.  When I think about how quickly I responded to His gentle nudge, I am left in wonder.  I will say that I do have a generous heart but, in the past, I had to carefully weigh how much I would give.  If the circumstances surrounding meeting this person had been different, I would probably have had mild interest and less enthusiasm, maybe making a one-time gift.  But because my heart belongs to my Savior,  after awakening it He began watering that small corner in my heart, making it grow and spread until it was nearly consumed with the desire to joyfully assist Him any way that I could.

That's the benefit of having your heart get bigger.  It means that He is gradually molding and shaping it to reflect His own heart so that the love He has for you can be spread abroad and sown upon other hearts in need of Him.

If you are looking for a more worthy place to spend that latte money, just let me know.  I am positive I can suggest an alternative.   But, if you think you have already stretched yourself as thin as you are willing to go, remember that God created our hearts with lots of extra room for more.  After all, we are always asking Him to make our hearts like His, and the depth of His heart is bottomless.

Who knows?  Just maybe there is a corner of your own  heart in slumber and waiting to be awakened, too.  Allow God to stir it from its sleep and then reach deeper to see what might be caught in the seams and lying idle at the bottom of that pocket.   Use your time and money wisely for His honor and glory.  Believe me, the reward will be far greater than a fleeting moment of pleasure sipping on a latte.

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