As a sixty-two-year-old homeless military veteran, Steve made his way to a warm climate where sleeping outdoors was tolerable year-round. One evening, as he displayed his hand-drawn art—his attempt to earn some money—a young woman approached and offered him several slices of pizza. Steve gratefully accepted. Moments later, Steve shared his bounty with another hungry, homeless person. Almost immediately, the same young woman resurfaced with another plate of food, acknowledging that he had been generous with what he’d been given.
Steve’s story illustrates the principle found in Proverbs 11:25 that when we’re generous with others, we’re likely to experience generosity as well. We shouldn’t give with expectancy of receiving; rarely does our generosity return to us as quickly and obviously as it did for him. Rather, we give to help others in loving response to God’s instruction to do so (Philippians 2:4; 1 John 3:17). And when we do, God is pleased. While He’s under no obligation to refill our pocketbooks or bellies, He often finds a way to refresh us—sometimes materially, other times spiritually.
Steve shared his second plate of pizza too with a smile and open hands. Despite his lack of worldly possessions, he embodies what it means to live generously, willing to cheerfully share what we have with others instead of hoarding it for ourselves. As God leads and empowers us, may the same be said of us.
On the outskirts of Paris, as in other cities around the globe, people are coming to the aid of the homeless in their communities. Clothing, covered in waterproof bags, is hung on designated fences for those living on the streets to take according to their needs. The bags are labeled, “I’m not lost; I’m for you if you’re cold.” The effort not only warms those without shelter, but also teaches those in the community the importance of assisting the needy among them.
The Bible highlights the importance of caring for those who are poor too, instructing us to be “openhanded” toward them (Deuteronomy 15:11). We might be tempted to avert our eyes to the plight of the poor, holding tightly to our resources instead of sharing them. Yet God challenges us to recognize that we will always be surrounded by those who have needs and therefore to respond to them with generosity, not a “grudging heart” (v. 10). Jesus says that in giving to the poor we receive an enduring treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33).
Our generosity may not be recognized by anyone other than God. Yet when we give freely, we not only meet the needs of those around us but we also experience the joy God intends for us in providing for His people. Help us, Lord to have open eyes and open hands to supply the needs of those You put in our paths!
As we watched my daughter's basketball game from the bleachers, I heard the coach utter a single word to the girls on the court: Doubles. Immediately, their defensive strategy shifted from one-on-one to two of their players teaming against their tallest ball-holding opponent. They were successful in thwarting her efforts to shoot and score, eventually taking the ball down the court to their own basket.
When Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, grapples with the toils and frustrations of the world, he too acknowledges that having a companion in our labors yields "a good return" (Ecclesiastes 4:9). While a person battling alone "may be overpowered, two can defend themselves" (v. 12). A friend nearby can help us up when we fall down (v. 10).
Solomon's words encourage us to share our journey with others so we don't face the trials of life alone. For some of us, that requires a level of vulnerability we're unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. Others of us crave that kind of intimacy and struggle to find friends with whom to share it. Whichever is the case, we mustn't give up in the effort. Solomon and basketball coaches agree: having teammates around us is the best strategy for facing the struggles that loom large on the court and in life. Lord, thank You for the people You put in our lives to encourage and support us.
For forty-five years after his career as a professional athlete ended, Jerry Kramer wasn’t inducted into his sport’s hall of fame (the highest recognition). He enjoyed many other honors and achievements, but this one eluded him. Although he’d been nominated for the honor ten times, it had never been bestowed. Despite having his hopes dashed so many times, Kramer was…
Whenever she was unable to take my phone call, I’d hear my friend’s voicemail recording inviting me to leave her a message. The recording cheerfully concluded, “Make it a great day!” As I reflected on her words, I realized that while it’s not within our power to make every day “great”—some circumstances truly are devastating—a closer look might reveal something redeeming and beautiful in my day, whether things are going well or poorly.
Habakkuk wasn’t experiencing easy circumstances. As a prophet, God had shown him coming days when none of the crops or livestock—on which God’s people depended—would be fruitful (v. 17). It would take more than mere optimism to endure the coming hardships. As a people group, Israel would be in extreme poverty. Habakkuk experienced heart-pounding, lip-quivering, leg-trembling fear (v. 16).
Yet despite that, Habakkuk said he would “rejoice in the
Sometimes we go through seasons of deep pain and hardship. But no matter what we’ve lost, or wanted but never had, we can, like Habakkuk, rejoice in our relationship with a loving God. Even when it feels like we have nothing else, He will never fail or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). He, the One who “provide[s] for those who grieve,” is our ultimate reason for joy (Isaiah 61:3).
In 1995 US stock market investors received record-high returns-on average, a whopping 37.6 percent return on their dollars. Then in 2008 investors lost almost exactly as much: a negative 37.0 percent. The years between had varying returns, causing those with money in the market to wonder-sometimes with fear-what would become of their investment.
Jesus assured His followers they would have an incredible return on investing their lives in Him. They "left everything to follow [Him]"-leaving their homes, jobs, status, and families to put their lives on deposit (v. 28). But they grew concerned their investment might not pay off after watching a wealthy man struggle with the grip worldly goods had on him. But Jesus replied that anyone willing to sacrifice for Him would "receive a hundred times as much in this present age . . . and in the age to come eternal life" (v. 30). That's a far better outcome than any stock market could ever match.
We don't have to be concerned about the "interest rate" on our spiritual investment-with God, it's an unmatched certainty. With money, our aim is to maximize the financial gain from our investment. With God, what we get back isn't measured in dollars and cents, but in the joy that comes from knowing Him now and forever-and sharing that with others!
My life often feels frenzied and hectic. I hurry from one appointment to the next, returning phone calls and checking items off my seemingly infinite to-do list while on my way. Out of sheer exhaustion one Sunday, I collapsed into the hammock in our backyard. My phone was inside, as were my children and husband. At first I planned to sit for just a moment or two, but in the undistracted stillness, I began to notice things that invited me to linger longer. I could hear the creak of the hammock swinging gently, the buzz of a bee in the nearby lavender, and the flap of a bird’s wings overhead. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the clouds moved on the wind.
I found myself moved to tears in response to all God had made. When I slowed long enough to take in the many wonderful things within my eyesight and earshot, I was stirred to worship in gratitude for God’s creative power. The writer of Psalm 104 was equally humbled by the work of God’s hands, noting “you fill the earth with the fruit of your labor” (v. 13
In the midst of a harried life, a quiet moment can remind us of God’s creative might! He surrounds us with evidence of His power and tenderness; He made both the high mountains and branches for birds. “In wisdom [He] made them all” (v. 24).
A 2003 infestation of Mormon Crickets caused more than $25 million in lost crops. The crickets came in such numbers that people couldn’t so much as take a step without finding one underfoot. The grasshopper-like insect, named for attacking the crops of the Utah pioneers in 1848, can eat an astounding thirty-eight pounds of plant material in their lifetimes, despite being merely two to three inches long. The impact of infestations on famers’ livelihoods—and the overall economy of a state or country—can be devastating.
The Old Testament prophet, Joel, described a horde of similar insects ravaging the entire nation of Judah as a consequence for their collective disobedience. He foretold an invasion of locusts (a metaphor for a foreign army, in the minds of some Bible scholars) like nothing previous generations had seen. (Joel 1:2) The locusts would lay waste to everything in their path, driving the people into famine and poverty. If, however, the people would turn from their sinful ways and ask God for forgiveness, Joel says the Lord “will repay [them] for the years the locusts have eaten.” (v. 25)
We, too, can learn from Judah’s lesson: like insects, our wrongdoings eat away at the fruitful, fragrant life God intended for us. When we turn toward Him, and away from our past choices, He promises to remove our shame and restore us to a life of abundance with Him.
He knew he shouldn’t have done it. I could clearly see he knew it was wrong: it was written all over his face! As I sat down to discuss his wrongdoing with him, my nephew quickly squeezed his eyes shut. There he sat, thinking—with three-year-old logic—that if he couldn’t see me, then I must not be able to see him. And if he was invisible to me, then he could avoid the conversation (and consequences) he anticipated.
I’m so glad I could see him in that moment. While I couldn’t condone his actions, and we needed to talk about it, I really didn’t want anything to come between us. I wanted him to look fully into my face and see how much I love him and was eager to forgive him! In that moment, I caught a glimmer of how God might have felt when Adam and Eve broke His trust in the garden of Eden. Realizing their guilt, they tried to hide from God (Genesis 3:10), who could “see” them as plainly as I could see my nephew.
When we realize we’ve done something wrong, we often want to avoid the consequences. We run from it, conceal it, or close our eyes to the truth. While God will hold us accountable to His righteous standard, He sees us (and seeks us!) because He loves us and offers forgiveness through Jesus Christ.