Last Sunday we had a Thanksgiving meal at church. After a festive time of food and laughter, we concluded with an open mic time. The Sunday School kids went first. Marky, my seven year old, went up to the mic and said, “My name is Mark and I am thankful that it’s my birthday.” You can get away with self-centeredness when you’re a cute kid.
I was a little embarrassed at his child-like honesty but not all that surprised. During the week, word got back to my wife and me that he was letting his buds know exactly what gifts they should buy for his party on Saturday. I could just picture the little booger during recess, “Hey man, hook me up with the Star Wars Legos, ok?”
One night, when it was his turn to pray before bed he prayed, “Lord, please don’t let me get any clothes or books for my birthday.” As you can see, he has no problems saying exactly what’s on his mind.
When my mother came over to babysit during the week, true to form, Mark said excitedly, “Grandma, it’s my birthday party this Saturday!” She whispered to me, “I went shopping for his gift, but it was too expensive. How about if I just give him a little money.” I nodded that’s fine and whispered back, “But really mom, you don’t have to give him anything.” She shushed me and dug inside her purse. She pulled out two ten dollar bills. She said, “Mark, it’s not much but happy birthday!” He looked at her, looked at the $20, and said, “Thanks Grandma!” If he stopped there, it would’ve been good. But he continued, “You gave me $20 and the other grandma gave me $200!” I looked at my mom’s face to make sure she wasn’t hurt. She laughed it off and said, “Isn’t it great that you have two grandmas who love you so much!”
I told my son afterwards that sometimes a $20 gift is really like a million dollars because of the deep love behind it. He should feel fortunate that he has two grandmas that love him, period. The amount is secondary. I hope he understood in some small way.
Today is Thanksgiving. I bet some of us sat at a table fit for a king while some of us shared a simple dinner with a friend. Perhaps you volunteered at a soup kitchen while some of us, though not in line to received donated food, are going through hard times. Such is life; sometimes we are able to give $200 to our grandson and sometimes we can only give $20 and sometimes nothing at all.
James writes to the scattered church about such things, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.” (James 1:9-10) The church has always been multi-layered as far as socio-economic statuses go. You have your rich, your poor, and everyone in between. Wealth can buy a lot of things such as power, status, and high standard of living, but it can’t buy salvation. James is essentially saying to the rich, “Don’t boast in your possession but in your position (in Christ).” How about those who had very little in earthly possession? James’ advice to them is that they should boast in their riches to come, namely their “exaltation” with Christ. Again, it is not the lack of their possession they should focus on but their position in Christ that secures for them a glorious future. There is no nobility in being poor in itself, just as there is no inherent evil in being rich; it’s what you put your hope in that makes you the person you are.
Without the gospel, wealth will produce pride and poverty will produce envy. That’s exactly what Satan wants – for our present circumstance, rather than the gospel, to be the eternal statement of who we are (Tempted and Tried, Moore). This world may label us as “$200″ or “$20″ people, but not the gospel; the gospel sees us as people who are “rich in Christ” and for that we are thankful to no end.
The gospel produces wealthy people who are humble and generous. They glory in their saved-sinner status and know nothing they have truly belongs to them. They are humble stewards and refuse to use their wealth for one-upmanship or for self-exaltation. Instead, they use it to serve and bless others.
The gospel also produces poor people of dignity and hope, for they know that in their lacking God is whetting their appetites for riches to come. Rather than complaining and envying for what they don’t have, they relish in opportunities to depend on God. They become people of sweet brokenness, people who are “poor in spirit” but rich in Christ.
Give Thanks, Don Moen
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks unto the Holy One
Give thanks because he’s given Jesus Christ his Son
And now let the weak say “I am strong”
Let the poor say “I am rich”
Because of what the lord has done for us