A few years ago, during Wednesday night Children’s Ministry activities at a church where I served, I found one of the children sitting in the back of the room away from all the others. Her knees were drawn up tightly to her chest, and tears streaked her face. I walked over to her, got down on my knees and asked her what was wrong. She gave no response except to cry even harder, sobbing with shoulders heaving. I asked her to take a little walk with me. We left the room, went to the water fountain, and in a bit, she calmed enough to speak.
During the Wednesday night program, when the children were rewarded for something, they were given some play money that we referred to as “bucks.” They would redeem the bucks later for prizes and other items. This little girl had sixteen, one-dollar bucks; the leaders in her room needed more ones as rewards, so they gave her a single twenty-dollar buck in exchange. She made four bucks, the leaders gained the needed ones. Everyone was happy, right? Well…no.
She liked the quantity of the ones. She didn’t like working so hard and accumulating one after another, only to watch, helplessly, as all those bills were taken and replaced by a single buck. She hated seeing all the other kids with double fistfuls of ones and she only with a few bills. She didn’t grasp the quality of the gift given to her.
“But don’t you see? You actually have more now,” I reasoned with her.
She shook her head. Through sobs, she said, “They took more…and then they gave me less.” She threw her arms around my neck, hugged me tight and cried for a long while. I explained that we would work it out, and after some time, she was assured it was a good thing, even though it didn’t feel like it. It was a child’s misunderstanding.
So often though, we share a sentiment similar to my young friend: “God, have you taken more…and given me less?” It certainly seems that way at times. That kind of thinking can lead a person to despair. Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I have listened to the complaints and cries from many people over the years about the unfairness of life when compared with the lives of others. Shortly after hitching your wagon of thought to that swift horse, you usually find yourself farther down that road than you need to be. The thought process goes like this…
You plow and sweat and toil for your bread, only to watch it slip away. As this goes on, other people with ungodly motives and selfish desires pull up seats and enjoy a table of what appear to be blessings for which they have not gratitude. You end up bereft of the time, effort and so many other things you value, only to be given, what seems like at the time, a consolation prize. Thanks for playing, better luck next time. And you know it rains on the just and the unjust, but secretly you think, “God, can’t you just dry up their fields a little? A little parching…just a little. Builds character, you know?” Then, before long, we’re at the back of the room, knees drawn up and crying over everything. It is a common misunderstanding as a child of God.
We forget an important fact: God is all about exchanging ones for twenties. He may take away that one-dollar relationship and exchange it for a twenty-dollar connection. That job you lost or that interview you blew may hurt now, but he may have something better in line, just waiting up ahead. There may be a twenty-dollar bill of providence on the horizon. You could be exchanging a one-dollar loss for an infinite gain. I’m not saying that the loss is not real, and it certainly does hurt deeply. And I’m not talking about a false gospel teaching here, but the truth is this: nothing you lose for the sake of Christ will leave you worse for that loss.
The real danger may not be in losing our ones, but clinging to them and missing the twenty. We might have no room for the gift of God’s bread because our hands are full of stones. Only empty hands are free to receive anything he places in them. God only gives good things, and he only takes what is needed to make us most like Jesus. Always. Even when our feelings say otherwise.
Give up your ones.
“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:9-11
We would be willing to lay aside anything that we might value more than Christ. – Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
We will know that accumulating spiritual treasures has more value than earthly treasures. – Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We would grow more and more in loving the best things over the good things. – Philippians 1:9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.