I am, and always have been, a firm believer in the following verse “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:3,4)
For the purposes of this story, however, I am going to discount that advice this once!
During the week my twelve year old daughter and I were browsing in a bookshop. I noticed a lady standing next to us, she was neatly dressed but you could see that she was not wealthy by any means. As I watched her she took a Bible from the shelf, looked at the front cover, turned it around and just held it for a while and then she put it back on the shelf. She looked at some other books and then went back to the same shelf and repeated her actions with the Bible and then, with a sigh, she put it back.
I turned to her and asked her whether I could buy her a Bible? She looked at me and nodded. I took the Bible from the shelf that she had been looking at, it was a King James version, and asked her if this was the one. She nodded her head and then told me it was far too expensive.
I told her not to worry and went to the counter with her, paid for the Bible and handed it to her with a hug and a “God bless you”.
She did not say a word – just looked at me in disbelief.
My daughter and I turned to walk out of the shop and she ran after us and asked me my name. I told her, gave her another quick hug and then walked on.
She stood there looking after us as if she had just seen an angel – believe me, she certainly had not!
As we walked out the shop my daughter said to me “Mom, that was such a lovely thing that you just did for that lady”. I explained to her that we do not give ‘sacrificially’ and that compared to the financial status of the lady in the bookshop, we were very wealthy.
Wealth is totally relative to your circumstances. To someone living in a squatter camp in a tin shanty with no running water, electricity or inside toilet, the person who lives in a township in a brick house and has water on tap is extremely wealthy. Now to that person someone who lives in a suburb and has both running water, electricity and a car is wealthy beyond measure compared to them. The list goes on and on.
We had just had a breakfast in a restaurant (even though we had plenty of food at home) for the same price that the Bible cost. I can almost guarantee you that the lady in the bookshop has never had a meal in a restaurant because her money goes towards just being able to put food on the table.
Later that morning we went into another shop to return an electronic item that was giving problems. We were sent from one area to another. There were only two staff on duty in a huge electronics department – one had disappeared and the other one was busy and the general standard of service was deplorable. Needless to say, I became very impatient and abrupt with the person who finally served us. I have a feeling my daughter felt I was being rude – I think my behavior fell just short of being rude but I certainly would not get into a debate about it with her as I have a feeling she would win!
As we were walking out the shop my daughter turned to me and said “Well, Mom, you certainly have cancelled out the good deed you did this morning”.
I was mortified, I wanted to crawl under a stone and stay there for the rest of the day.
She was right and it was a good reminder to me that our bad attitudes and behavior do cancel out our good deeds.
I felt, in that moment, that this verse in Revelation was written about me “…for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God”.
It is so easy to do a good deed but so difficult not to swear at people driving recklessly or to not be rude to shop assistants when their service is lousy.
Matthew 5:16 states “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Thank you daughter of mine for that reminder!