This morning, God challenges me about my motivations and offers another reason for being willing to give my possessions to others.
This comes from the story of Hannah. She had been barren for years. Finally, she conceived and bore a little boy named Samuel. However, she had made a vow that if she became pregnant, she would give this child to God.
And when she had weaned him . . . she brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. And the child was young. Then . . . they brought the child to Eli. And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. (1 Samuel 1:24–28)
George Bowen writes that “God sometimes bestows gifts just that love may have something to renounce. The things that He puts into our hands are possibly put there that we may have the opportunity of showing what is in our heart.” The New Testament offers a notable example.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. (Matthew 26:6–10)
Mark and Luke also include this story, yet not one of the three say how this woman came into possession of such costly ointment. Luke’s account says this woman was a sinner, suggestive of a prostitute. Perhaps that is why none of the disciples noted that this act was a great sacrifice for her. They were not like Eli who worshiped God because of what Hannah had done, but criticized her for not using the money for charity. They also criticized Jesus for letting “this sort of woman” touch Him.
Jesus rebuked them. He indicated that others would ‘get it’ and said that “wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13)
The challenge to me isn’t about giving up expensive items or even hoping others will worship because of what I do. Instead, it starts right at the beginning — my motivations for sacrifice. As I deal with the excess in this time of my life, and I giving things away because I need to get rid of them? Or am I doing it because I love Jesus and want to obey Him?
My motivations are often mixed when they could be pure and simple. As Bowen adds, “Oh, that there were in us a fervor of love that would lead us to examine everything that belongs to us, to ascertain how it might be made a means of showing our affection to Christ.”
Lord, today I must get at this task again. Some items are filled with memories. Others have that “someday” value. A few represent past achievements or affirm my skills. As I sort and toss, may Your Holy Spirit keep the story of Hannah and these devotional thoughts in my mind. While my de-clutter efforts certainly do not include a child to give up as Hannah did, some items have a strong value to my emotions and ego. I cannot keep all of them. Yet I also do not want to make up reasons to ease the difficulty of downsizing. It would be a blessing if You could help me offer these back to You (they are yours anyway) and do it just because I love You.