I looked in my wallet, but didn't have any money with me (which my wife will tell you is not unusual -- she frequently gets annoyed with me for never having any cash!). So, I approached my good friend Ben, explained the situation and asked if I could borrow $20.00. Ben, of course, gave me the money -- which I promptly gave to the lady in need. (The church was also able to help in other ways later).
Well, within a relatively short period of time I had forgotten the entire encounter including, much to my later embarrassment, the fact that I owed Ben $20.00. Not that Ben cared. I think he forgot about it as well.
So, about three or four months later this same woman approached me on a Sunday during our first service, but this time she was not asking for help. In fact just the opposite. She thanked me for helping her out months earlier, told me she had been blessed recently and now wanted to pay the $20.00 back. I, of course, told her I was more than happy for her to keep the money (after all, it was Ben's $20.00), but she insisted so I put the money in my back pocket intending to give it back to Ben when he arrived for the next service.
So, here is where it gets interesting. The next service started and I was not able to find Ben right away. For reasons I don't actually recall, I left service and went into the foyer. At that point, I noticed a lady standing there who was not familiar to me, so I asked if there was anything I could help her with.
The lady told me that she had stopped by the church because she was having financial difficulties, and wanted to know if someone could just help her buy groceries. Well, I didn't have any money in my wallet (imagine that). But, I did have $20.00 in my back pocket. And so, I gave Ben's money away a second time!
Now, you can call all of this a coincidence if you like, but I personally think God had a purpose in all of this. I think that God had something He wanted to say to everyone involved -- and maybe not even the same thing. So, I have prayed about what it is that God wanted me to learn from this simple chain of events.
Maybe the obvious part of the lesson is that God really can be trusted to show up in our time of need. In both cases, I know that twenty dollars was not going to solve the problem. But, in both cases I also know that in that moment God gave each of those ladies hope -- reason to believe that at the end of the day He would take care of them.
Another lesson to be learned, I think, is that God is a great multiplier. I was reminded that we rarely are able to see fully the repercussions of simple acts of kindness. We know that Ben's twenty in effect became forty -- blessing two different people at two different times. And, who knows what happened to the twenty from there.
I have to admit that I struggle from time to time with the idea of God's blessing -- both receiving it and comprehending it. I know that God desires to "prosper" us, but I have difficulty at times seeing that as including financial blessing -- although it clearly can.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
At the end of the day maybe it's as much as anything a matter of emphasis. I think if we stay singularly focused on doing God's work He will take care of us financially -- but at the same time our finances will become less important to us.
God's economy is a funny thing. And just like so many things in this world, God's way is just upside down from ours.