Saturday, September 06, 2008

Being Useful

A mother and her young daughter were walking in a downtown shopping district on a January afternoon. In the urban hustle and bustle, the little girl noticed a homeless man shivering against the bitter cold. As her mother tried to pull her closer, the girl walked over to the man. She pulled her fuzzy scarf from around her neck and placed it around his. The mother's heart welled up, that her daughter had more compassion than any of the hundreds of people who walked by that same man that day.

As they started to walk away, the homeless man called to them, motioning them back. He held out his hand, holding a dime -- probably all the money he had -- and said to the girl, "This is for you."

The mother politely refused, saying that payment is not necessary. "But I want to give this to her," he replied, holding the dime out further, tears of gratitude forming in his eyes.

It was then that the young mother realized that this man, who by the world's standards had less than nothing, still felt that he had something to give. And that by refusing his gratitude she was robbing him of his sense of usefulness.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is in the temple and watches people as they throw their offerings into the collection box. Here's the story, as told in Mark 12:41-44 :

Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all."

Everyone has a life story that tells how they came to where they are today. Certainly the man in this one had never planned to be homeless on a cold day in January. The widow probably never planned to live in poverty, and surely never expected to be noticed -- in a positive way -- by the Messiah of all people!

We've all had times when we felt down and out, like we had little or no worth in the eyes of the world. We don't ever have as a our life-goals to see ourselves as being utterly useless. We got there from our disposition to sin, to letting others down. Even though we might not have lived in the financial poverty of the homeless man or the widow, our sins have placed us in spiritual poverty. I'd venture to say that if God gave out "heavenly credit reports" on our souls, most of us would have "spiritual bankruptcy" on there at one time or another.

Even in the worst of our moments, Jesus sees each and every one of us as a person of extravagant value, someone worth dying for. In fact, He paid for our debt to get us eternally out of our spiritual bankruptcy. If we accept His gift, we can live a life of worth and usefulness.

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