Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Sheer Joy Of Giving

"I have shewed you all things, 
how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, 
and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, 
how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
Acts 20:35

Zachary is such a giving little guy.
He challenges me...
all the time.
To be more generous.
To be more selfless.
To give.

I've seen his face light up...
more than once...
just because he knew he had brightened someone else's day.

Early in life,
he has experienced the reality of Jesus' words
in today's passage of Scripture.
I couldn't be more grateful.

Not that Zach doesn't enjoy receiving...
but he has learned that it is much more enjoyable to give.

He and his Daddy love to play what we call "the claw" games.
You know...
the ones in the lobbies of Walmart and so many other stores.
The ones with the stuffed animals in them.
They rarely pass one by.
They work as a team.
They take turns.
They take it seriously.
One of them puts the money in and controls "the claw",
while the other one stands on the side...
giving instructions.
"Move it a little to the left...
no, go back to the right just a bit...
okay, now!"

They have won a LOT of stuffed animals over the years.
They just love it...
and have it down to a science. :~)
It is one of the many things they enjoy doing together.
One of life's small, simple pleasures.
I have lost count of the times they have met up with me
later in the store with one of their hands behind their back.
"Close your eyes" they say.
I close them...
and hold out my hand...
to receive what they took such joy in winning for me.
Such sweet, special memories that warm my heart.

I am so blessed by God.
I never take one drop of it for granted.
I never cease thanking God...
every, single day...
for these two precious souls...
who are such a part of me...
the ones I love more than life.

As I said before,
Zach loves to give.
It seems to thrill him...
to see joy in the eyes of someone else...
and know in his heart that something he did put it there.

One day, while in Walmart,
I happened to be watching Kevin and Zach play "the claw" game.
As they played,
I spotted a little boy...
about 4 years old...
watching intently.
His grandmother was standing nearby...
behind her shopping cart...
watching, too.

Zach tried his best.
He won the prize.
He was SO excited.
He bent down,
reached in,
and picked it up.
He didn't toss it into our cart.
He didn't hold on to it at all.
He turned and handed it to the little boy.

My mother heart swelled huge with pride.
I couldn't have been more pleased,
and I turned to the little boy,
expecting him to applaud the gracious act.
To show great gratitude....
at least some sign of emotion.

He said nothing.
Just reached out his little hand and grabbed it...
without a word.

"What do you say?"
his grandmother scolded.

"Thank you",
the little one mumbled.

I wondered about Zach.
Would the ingratitude dampen his enthusiasm?
My worry was unnecessary.
Zach was happy.
He wore a pleased expression.
He didn't seem bothered at all.

It hit me right then...
he had given for the sheer joy of giving.
He didn't need thanks.
or lack thereof...
did nothing to change the blessing Zach had received.

He proved it soon after...
during another Walmart trip.

An unkempt, scroungy-looking woman,
with a toddler seated in her shopping cart
stood right next to the machine watching Kevin and Zach play.
I have seen some uncared-for children in my day,
but I don't ever remember having seen a child more dirty
than that poor, little, pitiful boy.
His chubby, little hands were covered with grime,
his fingernails didn't appear to have been cleaned in a very long time...
maybe ever....
and I don't think there was a spot on him anywhere...
especially his face...
that wasn't beyond filthy.

My heart went out to him.
He couldn't have been more than three years old.

I have a hard time mustering tolerance for such neglect of a child.
The mother didn't seem ashamed....
nor did she appear to be much cleaner.
Being financially-deficient is truly no excuse for being unclean.
No matter how desperate the circumstances, 
one can always figure out a way to maintain proper hygiene, right?
One can surely afford to buy a bar of soap...
and find water...
if only in a public restroom.

There just isn't much of an excuse...
at least not in America.

I watched as Zach won a prize.
I knew he was aware of the unwashed little boy...
sitting beside the machine.

What would he do?
Would the lack of thankfulness on the part of the recipient of his last act of kindness
dampen his generous spirit and hinder him from giving to another?
I soon found out.

He reached into the machine,
took out his prize,
and immediately handed it to the grimy little fellow in the shopping cart.
Poor little guy!
His little face lit up when he realized it was his...
to keep.
But not as bright as Zachary's.
He walked away with the happiness that comes
from the sheer joy of giving.

There have been many other occasions I could mention...
moments I have seen true joy shine in Zachary's eyes
as he walked away from a random act of kindness.

There is nothing like a child to reveal
the purest of intentions.
They don't harbor ulterior motives.
Their giving is genuine...
completely sincere...
without thought of being paid back.

Chances are,
Zachary will never see those children again.
It is very unlikely that their paths will cross a second time.
They will never have the opportunity to reciprocate.

My hope is that they pay it forward...
through an act of kindness to someone else.
That maybe they caught a glimpse of the happiness
in Zachary's expression...
as he handed them a gift.
That they will remember their own happiness....
and want to bless someone else.

Jesus Christ was the ultimate Giver.
His whole life was spent in bringing joy to others.
I can just picture Him smiling from ear to ear
as He watched the lame man leaving His presence...
no longer holding on to his cane,
but walking normally, skipping now and then, without handicap.
Or the blind man running down the road
as he realized he could see...
everything around him...
in vibrant color.
Or the adulterous woman turning to walk away....
her accusers gone,
her head held high,
a look of complete amazement...
upon her forgiven face.
Or the thousands of formerly hungry men, women, and children,
now strengthened for their journey,
completely full because He had provided for them.

Jesus loved to give....
to everyone.
The gift of sight to the blind,
hearing to the deaf,
mobility to the paralyzed,
forgiveness to the sinner,
the gift of life to the dead.
His whole life...
the very fact that He condescended and came
to this sin-ridden world...
was the supreme gift...
of all time.

He gave Himself...
for the sake of every person...
whether they were grateful or not...
whether they would or would not
ever seek to pay Him back.
He gave because it was His choice to give.

He taught us to do likewise.

Please read carefully His words taken from Luke 14:12-14,
"Then said He also to him that bade Him,
When thou makest a dinner or a supper,
 call not thy friends, nor thy brethren,
neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours;
lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
But when thou makest a feast,
call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
And thou shalt be blessed;
for they cannot recompense thee:
for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just."

Too often we seek to give only to those who can requite our kindness.
We give only for what we will receive in return.
Jesus told us to do the complete opposite.
He taught us to be kind to strangers...
those we do not know...
those who are less fortunate than we are...
those who would never-in-a-million-years be able to exchange the favor.

I have seen Zachary's kindnesses returned to him
in literally dozens of ways.
Unexpected blessings...
that drop down upon him...

We have done our best to teach him
that the magnitude of our receiving
is based solely upon the degree of our giving.
The more he gives,
the more he receives.
Not that he should give with the motive to receive,
but in God's economy, this is just the way it works.

Mimmie always said,
"You can't outgive God."

Truer words were never spoken.
The more you give,
the more He blesses.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 says,
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly;
and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
Every man according as he purposeth in his heart,
so let him give;
not grudgingly, or of necessity:
for God loveth a cheerful giver."

Jesus said,
"Give, and it shall be given unto you;
good measure,
pressed down,
and shaken together,
and running over,
shall men give into your bosom.
For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again."
Luke 6:38

Commands so simple to understand.
Give to those who have no means or opportunity of giving back.
Give from your heart.
Give generously...
Give cheerfully,
not grudgingly.
Give for the right reason...
for the sheer joy of giving.

Zachary gets it.
I am so glad he does.
I pray he will always make giving an integral part of his life.
I trust he always remembers the deeply felt joy it brings.
I learn so much from his unselfish nature.
It reminds me of Jesus
and the Spirit with which He approached life.
It makes me want to do likewise.

We should always obey the inward urge to be kind.
We should seize every opportunity to bless another.
We should give whenever possible.

Think of how much we have been given!
Consider our many blessings.
Thank God for each and every one.
Take heed to the words of our Lord Jesus,
"...freely ye have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)
then pass on the love...
for the sheer joy of giving.

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