12.10.14 A Tale of Two Lives

2 Corinthians 9:12-15 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Growing up my parents on occasion would visit and elderly grant aunt that lived in what my sister and I thought was a large creepy old house.  Though my parents seemed genuinely affectionate toward her, my sister and I often wonder why.  She appeared to be very cranky and agitated all the time.  Physically she reminded us of Margaret Hamilton, the actress best known for playing the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 version of the Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland.  She wasn’t mean to us.  She just didn’t seem to be a very pleasant person.  The house was always in disarray and filled with all kinds of things that kids are drawn to touch and examine.  That would get a quick icy stare from her and a yelp from Mom or Dad to keep our hand to ourselves.  Then there were the stale cookies and flat soda she offered on some rare occasions.  Visiting this great aunt was not high on our list of favorite field trips and we would avoid it whenever possible.

We would learn as we grew older that this great aunt was in fact very wealthy.   She didn’t just own that creepy old house she owned the entire block and was somewhat of a slum lord.  During a time when most were struggling she used a keen gift for business to amass a small fortune and it appeared she spent most of her days hoarding and protecting that fortune.   Today that vast empire is long since past, squandered by children and siblings fighting for shares of it that mostly ended up as attorney’s fees and evaporated altogether.   My sister and I often wondered if our Scrooge-like great aunt was every really happy or every really knew any real joy.

My oldest brother burned through his 57 years of life in what seemed like 20 minutes.  No angel by any stretch of the imagination he was a gifted musician with a passion for the fast-lane.   Over the years he made and lost numerous fortunes.  I remember being awakened by him late one night not long after celebrating my birthday which he had missed.  He got me up and took me outside to an old jalopy that might as well have been a late model German sports car to me.  He threw the keys at me and said happy birthday kid!  It was the greatest gift I never got to keep.  You see I was only 12 years old and since my brother had won the car in a poker game, Dad made me give it back.   My brother was not perfect.  He made plenty of mistakes but the one thing he was widely known for and greatly loved for was his huge heart.  At his very large funeral countless people told me story after story of how my brother had aided them in their time of need, often when he could ill afford to do so.   If he had it, anyone could have it, and more than one life was changed because of him. There is no question he experienced great happiness and real joy in his lifetime.

Two lives.  One spent acquiring, accumulating, storing.  One spent giving, sharing, celebrating.   One spent in bondage.   One spent in freedom.   Which will you choose?

Heavenly FATHER, teach us how to open our eyes and see what is truly of value in this world.  Fill our hearts LORD with YOUR SPIRIT of grace, generosity, and compassion especially when we are consumed with our own needs and not in a giving mood.  Thank YOU for sharing with us all that YOU have.  Never let us forget how very blessed we are.  In CHRIST name we pray, amen.

Jim L