‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:22-24 NIV)
We all seem to love a great story where someone who used to profess to be a Christian comes back to church, turns their life around and gets their relationship with God back on track. Those are easy to cheer and applaud. We love these events because we get to see the redeeming Love of God in action right in front of our eyes; His Grace Unfolding.
But at what expense are we willing to participate in this Parade of Pardon? How much are ‘we’ willing to put on the line so that we get to watch the Mercy of God embrace those who were / are hurting, broken, and empty?
I ask that because when we look at this analogy that Jesus used (also called a parable), the father had two sons and divided the inheritance between them (to which the one son squandered it all away)… So you guessed it; all of the stuff the father used to celebrate the son’s homecoming… came from the other son’s inheritance! That was ‘his’ stuff!!!
The moment we think that what God has given us is for our sole benefit, we’ve lost the point of blessing. Inheritances are not earned, they are given. All that we inherit from the Father is not so that our lives can be now cushy and awesome, but that rather we have the resources available so that when the sons and daughters come back in distress to the Father we are ready and able to lead them back into a family who cares, accepts, and loves them.
The other son missed out on the party because he was having his own party… a pity party. May we always be out in the fields working our ‘inheritance’ with one eye on the work needing to still be done and the other scanning for the Father’s signal for us to come celebrate that another child has finally come Home.
At least that’s how I see it,
I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing. (Malachi 3:10 CEV)
You know the childhood saying as you intertwine your fingers… “Here is the church, here is the steeple… Open it up and see all the stains from the PBJ sandwich your mom made you for lunch.” Well… it goes something like that anyway.
Well you guessed it… you’re right. It’s about the people (not the stains… though some are quick to point out the coffee stains on the carpet). Church… is about the people. Not the decor (because that changes). Not the style of service (for that will change too). But church is about… the people. The people inside of the church… AND the people outside of the church that have yet to hear about the love and grace of a Saviour who died and rose again to give us life (ok… now I’m moving into “next week’s” thoughts).
So when we give to the ‘church’, we’re really giving to God in order to reach the ‘people’; the resources, the ministries, and all of the things that are necessary to make sure that the ‘people’ (whether here… or not here yet) are being ministered to.
So conversely when we “don’t” give, we therefore are really “not” giving to God in order to “not” reach the people. When we choose not to give it’s kind of like we’re saying to God, “Thanks for taking care of me and all that people sacrificed in order for You to reach me. But I’m good with being the end of the road. You don’t have to keep reaching people now.”
Maybe that seems a little harsh. Maybe it seems a little extreme. But maybe the fact that God calls us to support the work of the Kingdom IS extreme. Maybe, just maybe, the same God who created everything in the universe from simply His limitless wonder gave us the opportunity to partner with Him in doing something new again… that because of what ‘we’ give Him, He then can change ‘other’ people’s lives… just like He changed ours.
At least that’s how I see it,