Have you ever wondered why a poor, old woman living in the slums of Calcutta, India, who devoted her life to the mundane task of caring for unwanted, starving children was internationally known and revered and even awarded the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize? What did she do to deserve such impressive notoriety? Who was this woman? You and the rest of the world knew her. She was Mother Teresa.
By our materialistic, American standards, Mother Teresa was a miserable failure. She never owned her own home. She had no money set aside for retirement, had not built a successful business or had much of an income. She did not own a car and wore the same style of clothes every day.
There was no reason why this fragile woman living in the inner city of an obscure, economically struggling country, working with hundreds of seemingly insignificant children should have earned such worldwide respect and prestigious accolades.
The fact is that as a country, specifically, and as a world, generally, we have drifted quite far from our original moral, ethical, and religious moorings. However, we have not drifted so far from them that we do not still deeply respect people who are willing to sacrificially give of themselves to help the helpless. Deep down, each of us knows that in so doing we will experience the highest level of personal fulfillment and spiritual joy even though this reality is seldom part of our daily consciousness. Sadly, we often find ourselves so busy in our headlong pursuit of living life that we actually end up missing the true essence of life.
It is not enough to simply read the biographies of great men and women who throughout history have happily traded a life of prosperity, luxury, and comfort for one of toil, sacrifice, disease, and even death to help those who cannot help themselves. You may be inspired by their great religious and humanitarian efforts, but you will never experience their tremendous blessing. They would all acknowledge that the fulfillment they found surpassed everything they voluntarily gave up in the trade.
A group of twelve youth and adults traveled to Juarez, Mexico to build a home for a needy family.
The husband of the family, for whom the group was to build the home, worked sixty hours each week to earn $30. Their current home was a tiny, one-room shanty constructed out of shipping skids and wrapped in tar paper. Their three-year-old daughter was an invalid and had major respiratory problems. She could only go outside for a few minutes at a time.
The campsite where the group pitched their tents was an old cow pasture located across the road from a pigpen. The restrooms were pit toilets where it seemed half the flies in all of Mexico resided. If the flies did not drive you out, the smell would. The other half of the flies in Mexico swarmed over their food as they tried to eat. They slept on the ground, and from about 2 am on they were serenaded by a chorus of roosters making a sound night’s sleep impossible. They cleaned up each day by pouring buckets of water over their heads. It was a challenging week for this group in many ways.
Yet, in spite of all of this, the group seized the challenge of building a humble dwelling for this needy family with the unity and zeal you might expect only from those who were building a grand palace for a king.
On the second day, as the team enthusiastically raised the walls to the new home, the mother stood by crying. All who saw her wept too. At that moment the group was reminded that they were not just building a house, they were helping people.
Seeing that woman’s tears of joy made enduring all the discomfort of the trip wholly inconsequential. The group had again come to appreciate the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b). In this very small act of kindness, they had been reminded of this enduring truth.
What is interesting is that this group came home richer than they were before the trip. Some left their wives and children to go. Some took a week off work. They all spent money to go and they all endured physical discomfort. Yet, they came home richer. How? The answer cannot be explained in physical terms because it transcends the realm of the physical. It can only be explained in spiritual terms. And the explanation is this: You will always make a profit, when you give yourself away to others.
Let me suggest that the personal delight of giving massive sums of money away is decidedly minuscule in comparison to the joy you will realize by giving yourself away to a worthy cause.
The story of the rich young ruler expresses this truth perfectly. Jesus was not really interested in this young man’s wealth. In fact, Jesus told him to give it all away to the poor. What Jesus really wanted was the young man himself.
What is the greatest charitable gift you have to give? Yourself! Why not make a gift of yourself to a worthy Kingdom cause? You will be all the richer for it.
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E. G. “Jay” Link is the President of Stewardship Ministries, a teaching, training, mentoring and content ministry working with churches and nonprofit leaders to equip them with the biblical knowledge and training resources needed to serve all ages and all economic levels of believers to effectively live their lives as good and faithful stewards of all that God has entrusted to them. He is the author of four books, “Who’s in Charge Here?”, “To Whom Much is Given: Navigating the Ten Life Dilemmas Affluent Christians Face,” “Spiritual Thoughts on Material Things” and “Family Wealth Counseling: Getting to the Heart of the Matter.” Mr. Link may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.