School cafeterias, like large catering businesses, often prepare more food than is consumed simply because they can’t perfectly predict the need, and leftover food goes to waste. Yet there are many students who don’t have enough food to eat at home and who go hungry on weekends. One US school district partnered with a local non-profit to find a solution. They packaged leftovers to send home with students, and simultaneously addressed the problems of both food waste and hunger.
While most people wouldn’t look at an abundance of money as a problem the way we do with wasted food, the principle behind the school project is the same as what Paul suggests in his letter to the Corinthians. He knew the churches in Macedonia were experiencing hardship so he asked the church in Corinth to use their “plenty” to “supply what they need[ed]” (2 Corinthians 8:14). His objective was to bring equality among the churches so none had too much while others were suffering.
Paul didn’t want the Corinthian believers to be impoverished by their giving, but to empathize with and be generous to the Macedonians, recognizing that at some point in the future they too were likely to need similar help. When we see others in need, let’s evaluate whether we might have something to share. Our giving—however large or small—will never be a waste!
Chris had his blood retested four years after his lifesaving bone marrow transplant. The donor’s marrow had provided what was needed to cure him but had left a surprise: the DNA in Chris’ blood was that of his donor, not his own. It makes sense, really: the goal of the procedure was to replace the weakened blood with a donor’s healthy blood. Yet even swabs of Chris’ cheeks, lips, and tongue showed the donor’s DNA. In some ways, he’d become someone else—though he retained his own memories, outward appearance, and some of his original DNA.
Chris’ experience bears a striking resemblance to what happens in the life of a person who receives salvation in Jesus. At the point of our spiritual transformation—when we trust in Jesus—we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus encouraged them to reveal that inward transformation, to “put off [their] old self” with its way of living and to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). To be set apart for Christ.
We don’t need DNA swabs or blood tests to show that the transforming power of Jesus is alive within us. Rather that inward reality should be evident in the way we engage with the world around us, revealing how we’re “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave [us]” (v. 32).
Every day, Glen purchases his morning coffee at a nearby drive-through. And every day he also pays for the order of the person in the car behind him, asking the cashier to wish that person a good day. Glen has no connection to them. He’s not privy to their reaction, nor, it seems, is this his motivation: he simply believes this small gesture is “the least he can do.” On one occasion, however, he learned of the impact of his actions when he read an anonymous letter to the editor of his local newspaper. He discovered that the kindness of his gift on July 18, 2017, caused the person in the car behind him to reconsider their plans to take their own life later that day.
Glen gives daily to the people in the car behind him without receiving credit for it. Only on this single occasion did he get a glimpse of the impact of his small gift. When Jesus says we should “not let [our] left hand know what [our] right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3), He’s urging us to give—as Glen does—without need for recognition.
When we give out of our love for God, without concern for receiving the praise of others, we can trust that our gifts—large or small—will be used by Him to help meet the needs of those receiving them.
In my daughter’s earliest days, I often named for her the things she encountered. I’d identify objects or allow her to touch something unfamiliar and say the word for her, bringing understanding—and vocabulary—to the vast world she was exploring. Though my husband and I might naturally have expected (or hoped) her first word would be Mama or Daddy, she surprised us with an entirely different first word: her small mouth murmured dight one day—a sweet, mispronounced echo of the word light I’d just shared with her.
Light is one of God’s first words recorded for us in the Bible. As the Spirit of God hovered over a dark, formless, and empty Earth, God introduced light into His creation, saying “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). He said the light was good, which the rest of Scripture bears out: the psalmist explains that God’s words illuminate our understanding (Psalm 119:130), and Jesus refers to Himself as the light of the world, the giver of the light of life (John 8:12).
God’s first utterance in the work of creation was to give light. That wasn’t because He needed light to do His work; no, the light was for us. Light enables us to see Him and to identify His fingerprints on the creation around us, to discern what is good from what is not, and to follow Jesus one step at a time in this vast world.
My friend recounted how she’d pointedly been asked by a fellow believer and colleague which political party she belonged to. His aim in asking the question seemed to be to predict whether he agreed with her on any number of issues currently dividing their community. In an effort to find common ground between them, she simply replied, “Since we’re both believers, I’d rather focus on our unity in Christ.”
People were also divided in Paul’s day, though over different issues. Topics such as what foods were permissible to eat and which days were holy brought disagreement among the Christians in Rome. Despite being “fully convinced in their own mind” on whichever position they held, Paul reminds them of their common ground: living for the Lord (Romans 14:5–9). Instead of passing judgment on one another, he encouraged them to “do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (v. 19).
In an era when many countries, churches, and communities are divided over issues large and small, we can point one another to the unifying truth of Christ’s work on the cross to secure our life with Him eternally. Paul’s reminder that we ought not “destroy the work of God” (v. 20) with our individual positions is as timely today as it was 2,000 years ago. Instead of passing judgment on one another, we can act in love and live in a way that honors our brothers and sisters.
Derek noticed his son didn’t want to take off his shirt to swim and realized it was because he was self-conscious about a birthmark that covers parts of his chest, belly, and left arm. Determined to help his son, Derek underwent a lengthy and painful tattooing process to create an identical mark on his own body.
Derek’s love for his son reflects God’s love for His sons and daughters. Because we, His children, “have flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14), Jesus became like us and took on a human form and “shared in [our] humanity” to free us from the power of death (v. 14). “He had to be made like [us], fully human in every way” (v. 17) to make things right with God for us.
Derek wanted to help his son overcome his self-consciousness and so made himself “like” him. Jesus helped us overcome our far greater problem—slavery to death. He overcame it for us by making Himself like us, bearing the consequence of our sin by dying in our place.
Jesus’ willingness to share in our humanity not only secured our right relationship with God but enables us to trust Him in our moments of struggle. When we face temptation and hardship, we can lean on Him for strength and support because “He is able to help” (v. 18). Like a loving father, He understands and cares.
Not long ago we moved to a new home just a short distance from our old one. Despite the close proximity, we still needed to load all of our belongings onto a moving truck because of the timing of the financial transactions. Between the sale and purchase, our furnishings stayed on the truck and our family found temporary lodging. During that time, I was surprised to discover how “at home” I felt despite the displacement from our physical home—simply because I was with those I love most: my family.
For part of his life, David lacked a physical home. He lived life on the run from King Saul. As God’s appointed successor to the throne, Saul perceived David as a threat and sought to kill him. David fled his home and slept wherever he found shelter. Though he had companions with him, David’s most earnest desire was to “dwell in the house of the
Jesus is our constant companion, our sense of “home” no matter where we are. He’s with us in our present troubles and even prepares a place for us to live with Him forever (John 14:3). Despite the uncertainty and change we might experience as citizens of this earth, we can dwell permanently in our fellowship with Him every day and everywhere.
Scientists from Penn State University recently engineered a new kind of glue that’s both extremely strong and also removable. Their design is inspired by a snail whose slime hardens in dry conditions and loosens again when wet. The reversible nature of the snail’s slime allows it to move freely in more humid conditions—safer for the snail—while keeping it securely planted in its environment when movement would be hazardous.
The researchers’ approach of mimicking an adhesive found in nature calls to mind scientist Johannes Kepler’s description of his discoveries. He said he was “merely thinking God’s thoughts after him.” The Bible tells us that God created the earth and all that’s in it: the vegetation on the land (Genesis 1:12); the “creatures of the sea” and “every winged bird” (v. 21); “the creatures that move along the ground” (v. 25); and “mankind in his own image” (v. 27). When humankind discovers or identifies a special attribute of a plant or animal, we’re simply following in God’s creative footsteps, having our eyes opened to the way He designed them.
At the end of each day in the creation account, God surveyed the fruit of His work and described it as “good.” As we learn and discover more about God’s creation, may we too recognize His magnificent work, care for it well, and proclaim how very good it is!
John Nash was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, recognizing his pioneering work in mathematics. His equations have since been used by businesses around the world in understanding the dynamics of competition and rivalry. A book and a full-length movie have documented his life and refer to him as having “a beautiful mind”—not because his brain had any particular aesthetic appeal, but because of what it did.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah uses the word beautiful to describe feet—not because of any visible physical attribute but because he saw beauty in what they did. “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news” (Isaiah 52:7). After seventy years in captivity in Babylon resulting from their unfaithfulness to God, messengers arrived with encouraging words that God’s people would soon be returning home because “the Lord has . . . redeemed Jerusalem” (v. 9).
The good news wasn’t attributed to the military might of the Israelites or any other human effort. Rather it was the work of God’s “holy arm” on their behalf (v. 10). The same is true today, as we have victory over our spiritual enemy through Christ’s sacrifice for us. In response, we become the messengers of good news, proclaiming peace, good tidings, and salvation to those around us. And we do so with beautiful feet.