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I was reading a forum where someone asked the rights and wrongs of a Christian worker setting up a GoFundMe page to raise expenses to get their car repaired. The commenter was asking if this was right for a Christian.
This post isn’t specifically about that but it triggered other memories for me.
Many years ago my parents were going on holiday. I was of course glad for them but I confess even happier that they were leaving me their car to use for the week they were away. It was, if I remember correctly, a white Honda Civic with a rear spoiler. Mum did always like a rear spoiler.
I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, counting down to midnight or the moment my parents left on holiday.
Dad quietly pulled me aside.
“It seems the minister’s car is out of action. Someone from the church phoned and asked if he could use our car…”
Deathly silence from me…
“So we’re giving him the car for the week.”
I had no words…an evil goblin had just grabbed my presents from under the tree before I could reach them. The evil goblin was the minister, or whoever had known Mum and Dad had a car and they were away for the week. How could he, how could they? Even worse, how could my parents do this? Give him the car when they’d already said I could have it?? The injustice, no no no…
I mustered all my thoughts together, I had one moment to come up with a compelling argument, a reason so persuasive that Dad would get on the phone and say, “Sorry, bit of a mix up, car isn’t available after all, sorry.” So I summoned my fast diminishing coherent thoughts and said…
“But but but…”
It didn’t work.
Christmas was cancelled.
“It’s done”, came the reply, “it’s only for a week.”
My carefully worded argument, my attempt to persuade into a u-turn, continued…
“So the minister needs a car and out of all the people in the church, some busybody, clearly trying to get into the minister’s good books, decides to offer him our car…sorry Dad, your car…without even asking you first, and you say yes! And…and…they know you’re going on holiday, so they just assume the car is free, without bothering to check?!?!?! That’s just not on…of all the selfish, stupid, self-centred things…”
Dad’s stare, that stare that tells me a hellfire missile fired from point blank range won’t change his mind, “It’s done, that’s the end of it.”
I’m a Christian. I was a Christian then. I didn’t need the car, it was a bonus. A bonus that made me excited, I had planned where I could go, what music to listen to with the window down and sunroof open (rain notwithstanding…I live in Glasgow).
However, the minister needed a car. I couldn’t argue that one away. He had sick people to visit, hospitals to attend, meetings to get to, a family to transport here and there. I merely wanted to enjoy myself by joyriding (my version of joyriding…more like the elderly couple hogging the inside lane than the ninety miles an hour up the outside lane). The minister was employed in God’s service. I merely wanted the exhilaration of having the car for the week.
I’m guessing he would have happily said, “No problem, his need is greater, I don’t need it, take it. Probably just as well, I’d only have converted the fuel tank so it never ran out and experimented with hands free steering.”
But I was angry, annoyed, initially spitting blood. I was doing my stroppy teenager bit. Actually, for years I was annoyed at that before I realised that God’s attitude was not like mine, thank God for that! You know when you say something doesn’t bother you any more but every time you’re reminded of it you still harbour that little bit of “How dare he!” Yep, that needs to go as well.
When we have something and someone else has need of it, what is our reaction? Are we happy to give it to them, to borrow or to keep? Or do we jealousy hold on to it, it’s mine and you’re not having it?
I was reading a letter recently where someone wrote that what they had, possessions, clothes, car, house, everything, were gifts from God and not to be jealousy kept but to be selflessly used to help others as others had need. They were gifts from God and God retained ownership of them, they were not ours to possessively hold back. That was not my attitude as a teenager. Today I have to remind myself daily that the things I have are gifts from God, for my use yes, but also for the use of others as they have need.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Acts 2:44-45
Whether selling to give to those in need or giving our material goods, are we possessive or happy to give as need arises? Do we really need all those clothes in our wardrobes? Yes I might wear that shirt in the future but couldn’t someone use it now and if I give it away and it turns out I am going to need it can I not trust God to provide for me?
What about things that are most precious to us? Are we really going to withhold our car in case someone spills something on the immaculate seat? What if they have a collision and dent the bumper or scrape the paintwork?
What about all those zillions of books (speaking to myself here)? The ones I know I’ll never read but just can’t bring myself to give away. Perhaps there are students who could really use books we have and if we later need something will God not provide? Maybe someone’s been scouring the second hand stores for a fiction book they can’t afford full price. Maybe it’ll make their whole year and bring such joy to find it. It’s the fifth in a series. We’ve only read the first two but we’re keeping that fifth till we’ve read through three and four.
There’s another thing. The minister who had my parent’s car for the week, we hadn’t always seen eye to eye. Just being honest. That didn’t help. Not only was he using the car I was to have for the week, but there were things about his manner I didn’t care for. Sometimes I wonder if I’d actually feel that way about Jesus. Now that would be awkward!
What if someone needs something we have, maybe not even a material possession but our actual physical presence? Are we willing to give ourselves to physically help someone who, being totally honest, we don’t particularly like?
What we have are gifts from God, we ourselves can be God’s gift (not in an egotistic way!) to someone in need, we must always remember that.
What would Jesus do?
He gives freely and joyfully.