Long ago, I decided that if there’s not a pretty good risk that I’m going to be taken advantage of, then I’m probably not being generous enough and kind enough and loving the way Jesus loved.
From a human standpoint, Jesus was taken advantage of. He healed ten people and only one came back to thank Him. He healed a paralyzed man and that man kept on sinning. When Jesus found him and advised him to stop sinning or something worse than paralysis could happen, the man ran to the Pharisees (on the legs Jesus healed) and told them Jesus was the person who healed him and told him to carry his mat on the Sabbath. I don’t have proof, but I doubt if all the five thousand and then four thousand people Jesus miraculously fed responded to those miracles by loving and serving Him with all their hearts.
Jesus loves liberally. Abundantly. Vastly. And we are told to do the same. Jesus gave us the picture of a farmer tossing seeds into a big field. Can you picture it? This farmer reaching into his basket and bringing up heaping handfuls of seeds, then opening his hands, spreading wide his arms and generously spreading the seeds. According to Jesus, some of the seed would fall onto good soil, some onto rocky soil, some among weeds, but the farmer’s job is to lavishly toss out the seeds.
And that’s how I want to sow love and grace, the Gospel message. I want to lavishly, generously, liberally give love and grace and help to others.
Obviously, I’m going to be wise. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be. But if we’re loving the way Jesus loves, then there is always going to be the risk of being taken advantage of. And sometimes, someone will actually take advantage of our kindness and generosity. But when we take the risk, when we heap love into someone’s life, when we pour our resources into someone who seems like a potentially bad investment, when we give abundant grace, when we sow life-seeds into good soil — what joy! What deep-down, gushing-up, overflowing joy!
Years ago, back before we had children, God put a man into our lives. We met him when he was out on bond awaiting trial. My husband prayed with him when he asked Jesus to be the Forgiver of his sins and Leader of his life. We became friends. When he went to prison, my husband visited him regularly, taking along this man’s young daughter. I visited him a couple times too at the maximum security facility. Once or twice, we even took along our oldest daughter, who was a baby. We wrote letters and accepted collect phone calls. We sent money and bought Christmas gifts for his little girl. And when he was released, we let him stay with us. He regularly stayed in our home on weekends when he returned to town to visit his daughter.
I genuinely like this man and consider him a friend. Sometimes we helped him because of our friendship and how much we liked him. But his life experiences have been very different than mine. He spent twelve and a half years of his adult life incarcerated. He spent more time than that addicted to some substance or another. I can sometimes be a bit self-righteous and Pharisaical; and thirteen years ago, I was even more so. So, we have had setbacks in our friendship. Sometimes we helped him, but in the back of our minds we felt certain we were probably sowing among weeds. We had little faith.
It had been several years since we’d seen this friend. Five or six years, probably. But on Sunday, we were walking into the church we attended for many years, the church where we met him, and there he was. He and his daughter, now a beautiful young woman, arrived at the same moment we arrived. As we talked, catching up on the years, our friend very humbly told us that he is about to celebrate twelve and a half years outside of prison. That’s as many years in total as he spent incarcerated. He has also been completely clean and sober for more than seven years now. He looks good. He works hard at a respectable job. He’s a proud father and has maintained a relationship with his daughter, who is in college.
God did all of that. God transformed a life. Working the soil of a heart is God’s job. My job is to plant. Generously. Lavishly. Sow grace. And whatever help and encouragement I can. And love. Heaps and heaps of love. Without worrying about whether I will get a good return on my investment. Without worrying about whether the person is worth it. My job is to sow.
And when I see that God has grown something out of the life-seeds I’ve tossed about, then I thank Him with great joy! Deep-down, gushing-up, overflowing joy!
Let’s reach deep into our baskets and extravagantly toss out grace today. Are you with me?