Or maybe he was thirsty and wanted money for vodka. Maybe he wanted money to buy something else altogether, there really isn’t any way to know for sure. The cardboard sign that he held said he was hungry, so most likely his hunger was real.
We saw him sitting on a two foot wall along the outer perimeter of a Denny’s restaurant. He was near the parking lot where we had parked, and most of us had looked at him quickly and then looked the other way.
It was years ago, my husband, my children and I were walking into the restaurant with a group of college people from our church when we passed the man seeking financial assistance. I don’t remember if anyone from the group gave him a dollar or two. What I do remember is my youngest son, who was in the third grade at the time, turned and asked if he could give the man some money. My son had his own wallet, he had some dollar bills, and he wanted to help.
I told him he could help the stranger, and I inwardly prided myself for the child I was raising. “Look at my child, he’s so loving and generous.”
I watched as my son opened his wallet and gave the man ALL of his money. He had over twenty dollars in his wallet, and it had taken him a few weeks to save the cash. The pride I had felt at being influential in my son’s generosity came spiraling down when my own heart was quickly revealed. I spoke without thinking, “Wait, son, what are you doing?! You’re giving him ALL of your money?!”
“Yes,” my child replied. “He doesn’t have any money for food, and I don’t need money. You will buy me food.”
I was embarrassed at the way I had responded, but I wasn’t totally surprised at my shameful reaction. At the time I hadn’t considered myself greedy, but this was before I had witnessed God reveal his nature through His steadfast safety-net of provisions. Since then having opportunities to give have brought me a long way, but recently I realized I still have a long way to grow.
Greed: noun \ˈgrēd\ a selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed
It struck me as I read a a friend’s reply to a comment I had left on her Instagram. My Insta-friend is doing something truly remarkable with her time and her resources. She is a single woman with a young-adult child, and in this new season of her life she has dedicated herself to helping orphans in Kenya. After two short term trips with her church, she made a return visit last summer during which she worked with a local pastor. Together they gathered the people and resources to start an orphanage for eight boys who were living on the streets.
Since that time she has returned to America and continued doing the work needed to sustain the undertaking. Last week she posted a picture on Instagram where she spoke of her upcoming trip. She is returning to Kenya for 45 days. When I saw the post and was reminded of the sacrifices she is making, I had to applaud her publicly. I had to speak life into her. Simply put, I had to tell her how proud of her I was. I left her a comment telling her just that. She responded, “Wow, thank you SO much. Your words mean a lot to me.”
That’s when it struck me. She said my words meant a lot to her, and I understood the depth of what she was saying.
Through this time of public shame, I have learned to value public affirmation, as well as private messages of encouragement, like I had never valued them before. I have a greater understanding of how the right word said at the right time can inspire unlike anything else. Her thankful response made me realize I had given her that same gift which I value.
But along with the gift of today, I saw the greed of my past.
- I have spent too many years reluctant to fully embrace and acknowledge the accomplishments of other women.
- I have missed out on too many chances that I could have shown abundant and public appreciation when I witnessed a woman who was bringing beauty into the world.
- I have wasted too many opportunities withholding affirmations in the lives of other women.
I have spent too many years being greedy for the thing that I have always wanted.
Greed isn’t just about money.
If there is something we are holding back from giving to another person, there is a strong chance it is because we fear we don’t have enough of it in our own lives. We seem to understand this fear when it comes to money. I am beginning to see that it is not just about money. Greed is when we hold too tightly to the thing we desire the most and fear not having enough of.
- We can be greedy with our affections. We hold back from initiating human contact–while (ironically) craving connection. We hold ourselves back from giving that which we may not receive in return.
- We can be greedy with intimacy towards our husbands. We avoid eye contact during sex, but then we look for romance in a movie or a book. We desire something more than just the physical act of sex, but we hold tightly to the intimacy required for true marital romance, as if we will lose what we give away.
- We can be greedy with our affirmations to others who are gifted–especially if their gift mirrors our own in some way. We fear someone else getting more attention for their talent–as if there won’t be enough left over for us.
And this is where we can learn from the simple, yet deep, thoughts of a third grader. We can give it all away, because our Father will give us what we need.
“Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.” -Sarah Bernhardt
We can give away the thing we desire most because we trust God’s nature and His steadfast safety-net of provisions will never be limited to the financial aspects of our lives. Philanthropists have testified that a person grows less greedy in financial dealings by being generous with their resources. Wouldn’t it follow suit to trust God with things that money can’t buy?
Perhaps in the giving away we receive more. Perhaps we require less. Perhaps it is both.