Read His Words Before Ours!
His name was Tony.
He had a long gray beard and wore tattered clothes and a backpack.
I can’t tell you the first time I met him, but I know that he became a part of our story when my mom asked him to meet her at McDonalds so she could buy him a meal.
After that, his name became a common word in our house.
“Tony this..” and “Tony that…”
And then, Tony came to church with us.
My dad brought Tony a tie and some clothes before we showed him to the bathroom of our tiny church to give him time to change and freshen up. The mixture of the Las Vegas heat, his thick beard, and wearing all of his belongings on his back made for a man with a distinct smell, and not necessarily a pleasant one.
Tony walked into the bathroom and didn’t emerge for a long time. It may have been 15 minutes, but that is a long time for a little mind.
When Tony opened that bathroom door, he still looked like himself, just a cleaner version that smelled a little nicer, too.
But Tony was so proud. He walked taller, he held his head higher, and he was excited and honored to go to church with us.
That day, Tony gave all that he could to the Lord. The only thing he could give was his appearance and his best effort to freshen up. He cleaned himself and clothed himself because he was going to meet with God, and he was going to bring God his very best.
Tony reminds me of the widow in the 21st chapter of Luke.
There, Jesus sat across from the offering box in the temple, His legs crossed before Him while He watched offerings being placed into the box. One woman came forward with a bag bulging and jingling as she walked. She looked around to see who was watching before dumping the contents of the bag into the box. Her eyes gleamed as she thought, “The Lord will be so proud of me for giving so much!”
Another woman approached the box, not haughty as the one before her, although she also brought an offering that equaled quite a large sum. She was excited to give, and didn’t do so out of obligation or pride, but she gave knowing that she still had money left over to purchase food from the market for her family’s dinner that night.
Then a third woman came, as Jesus continued to watch. She approached the offering box without a bag in her hand, but her fist clenched tightly. Jesus knew her, because He knows us all, and He knew that she was a widow, among the poorest of people.
This woman had no husband to provide for her.
She was vulnerable.
She was alone.
He continued to watch as she drew her arm up and dipped her hand into the box, silently releasing what she had held her in hand.
Two copper coins. Combined, they didn’t even equal one penny.
And that was it.
That is all she gave.
But she gave all she had.
And Jesus saw.
Jesus saw the widow’s heart. He saw her courage. He saw her trust and her faith. He saw her longing to bring her Lord a gift, even if that gift seemed like nothing in comparison to the others around her.
The widow gave everything.
Tony, he had nothing, yet he still found something to give, and when he did, he gave everything.
Jesus sees the things we often don’t see. From the outside, it might not have appeared like Tony gave anything. He still wasn’t dressed in the nicest of clothes. His beard was still scraggly and there was still dirt under his fingernails. If I didn’t know Tony, I never would have seen his gift. But Jesus saw. Because He sees every little thing.
Giving everything we have doesn’t always mean giving money. It did for the widow, but for Tony it was giving his absolute best to his appearance as he went to worship God. It means giving when it’s scary by laying down our pride and trusting that God is going to provide, He is going to care for us, He is going to see, and He is going to love us no matter what.
Sometimes it means giving up your comfort and everything you’ve ever known to live on the mission field (Like this family!), and sometimes it means giving the last $20 in your bank account to someone even though you aren’t sure why, and sometimes it means giving a homeless man your nicest tie and a delicious meal, when you can’t even afford to take out your own family.
Give boldly, friends.
Give with faith, friends.
Give with everything you have.
And Jesus will see.
This Bible Study first appeared on GracefullyTruthful.com and is property of Gracefully Truthful. For more studies like this, check out the website!
Read His Words Before Ours!
The image of Jesus with children surrounding Him is pictured on the cover of children’s Bibles and displayed in Sunday School rooms all over the country. You’re probably imagining a specific version of this picture as you read. I am, too. Jesus is in His white gown with a red sash, a light brown beard and sandals drawn on His feet. One child sits on His lap while His other arm is spread wide, welcoming the other children around Him.
This image has almost become a cliche.
“Let the little children come to me…”
I can imagine this scene so well, because I’ve been imagining it for over 20 years.
But, listen with me to hear Jesus’ tone.
Don’t read these words in the lofty “Jesus” voice we tend to give Him. Read it as if your kids are about to run on stage during church and when you go to grab them by their squirmy little arm, the pastor says, “No, no, no! Let them come up here. It’s no big deal!”
Then reread it again.
This time, read it like they’re about to run into their daddy’s office where he’s working and after you call out, “Kids, don’t go in there!” you hear, “Babe, it’s fine. They can come in!”
Reread it for a third time, this time remembering how you felt as a child.
Imagine running next door to say hello to your elderly neighbor. Your mama shouts, “Come home and stop bothering Mr. Al!” But Mr. Al responds with a hearty, “Let her come over! I have some lemon cookies to share!”
See, when Jesus said, “Let the children come to me”, He wanted His disciples and the parents to know that He not only didn’t mind the children coming, He wanted them to come! He wanted them to hear Him and learn about His Father. He wanted them to climb up on His lap as He continued doing His Father’s work. He wanted to bless them with gifts and precious memories.
These children were desperately wanted.
All children are desperately wanted by our Jesus!
But friends, not all children know just how wanted they are by the Savior.
Maybe they know their parents want them, but they don’t know Jesus does.
Or maybe they feel unwanted by so many, not realizing that Someone does want them to know Him and love Him and know they are loved by Him.
These children are everywhere.
They sit next to your daughter in class.
They play on your son’s baseball team.
They stand in front of you at the grocery store.
They go to church with you.
They walk miles to and from school every day in the heat of the African sun.
They care for their younger siblings while their parents farm in fields.
They ride on boats across treacherous waters to find safety.
They are used to fight in wars.
They are used for addictions and to cater to disgusting desires.
They are sold and exploited.
They are brought to America with their families.
They are mutilated and married off to men as old as their fathers.
They cover their entire bodies, and they wear nothing at all.
They eat until their bellies can’t fit anymore, and they eat mud cakes to quiet their aching tummies.
They sing songs loudly and learn chants, and they are sworn and scared into silence.
They come from wealthy families, and they come from the poorest of the poor.
These children live in America and they live in New Zealand and every country in between.
These children are everywhere.
And Jesus wants them.
Jesus took the children before Him into His arms, and blessed them. He gave them favor and protection. He took them into His arms, those same arms that would be spread out on a cross with nails driven into them, and He held these precious children. Because He wanted them.
Jesus wants you.
But Jesus also wants you to want these children.
He wants you to love them and serve them and bless them.
The Bible says over and over again to love and care for the orphan and the widow…
the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, and the lowest in the caste system.
Start praying about what wanting these children means for you.
It can mean deciding to work with children in foster care.
It can mean sponsoring a child overseas.
Maybe it means teaching Sunday School or even volunteering in your kids’ classrooms.
It could mean a mission trip.
It could even mean stepping outside of your political stance or your immediate emotions to give in capacities you never imagined giving.
But I believe, with all of my heart, that Jesus wants us to look at the children in our lives and say, “Hey! It’s ok! Come over and sit with me. I want you.”
And then teach them about the One who wants them more than He wanted His own life.
This Bible Study is property of Gracefully Truthful, where it was first published. For more studies like this one, visit GracefullyTruthful.com!
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