by Mike McKinniss
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46
Among the many persistent promises that the Lord gives to his people throughout scripture is a pledge of an abundant life, which I do not take as simply a spiritual hope. That is, I believe God’s intention all along was to provide for his people and, ultimately, all the people of the world all of the material blessings that make life possible.
But it’s taken me some time now to realize that these promised blessings rarely seem to fall out of the sky on a direct course for my lap. (Alas!) In fact, there is one particular lesson I’ve been confronted with lately, one that, if I’m honest, I haven’t been all that eager to learn. The lesson is this: God’s blessings, even the material ones, are going to cost us everything.
During the last holiday season, as for so many others, my personal finances were particularly tight. I had prepared a personal budget for the upcoming year and was freshly shocked at just how tight it was going to be. At the same time, I was being challenged by the Lord to embrace a more generous lifestyle. Funny how these things seem to coincide.
At one particular Sunday morning church service, as the offering was being called, a number flashed through my mind. It was a large number for me and I had every reason to discount it. I’m a tither; I give regularly from my monthly income. And the dollar amount that entered my mind that morning was, frankly, a lot. Technically, I had the money to give, but I also knew I couldn’t afford it. I knew I would need it soon for one bill or another.
Nevertheless, I believe it was the Lord’s prompting and I decided to go for it. While others marched forward to place their gifts in the plate, I pulled out my phone, called up my church’s website, and punched in my offering: a 21st century gift to the Lord.
Afterwards, I was equal parts joyful and terrified–happy, because I had quickly obeyed; fearful, because my budget had just gotten significantly tighter, possibly to the point of being unreachable.
This feeling lingered for the better part of a month, through the Christmas season, full as it is with gift buying for friends and family. I took my time alternating between confidence (God, I’m counting on you to come through on this!) and trepidation (Goodness, how the cost of Christmas gifts escalates!).
Finally, the lesson hit home when, in the course of about ten days, I was given Christmas gifts of my own. Twice I received, quite unexpectedly, financial gifts, each one equaling the exact amount I had given that morning several weeks earlier. I had received twice what I had given, and all it took (as if it were so easy) was patience and trust.
And this is what I am learning: that God’s promises of abundance are real and they are for every aspect of our lives–spiritually, materially, and so on (as if we could really separate any of these, anyway). But I am also learning that the Lord’s abundance, while far greater than what we already have, is still going to cost us everything we have.
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