Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Real Life Parable Made Me Think

After church started on Easter Sunday, an Asian man in his 30’s sat down in the pew in front of me. I had the feeling he was homeless but it wasn’t obvious. I handed him my bulletin and showed him where we were. When it came time for the offering, I couldn’t help but watch. I worried because if I was right about him, this could be an uncomfortable situation. He opened his wallet and all I could see was a coupon and two dollars. He pulled out the two dollars and put them in the offering plate.

We all know about the parable of the woman giving her small amount in the temple showing far more love than the rich man who gave a larger amount but a smaller fraction of his wealth. I had witnessed the real thing. While I thought selfish thoughts on his behalf, he emptied his wallet.

So today I sit here thinking I would never give away all our money. Who would empty out their mutual funds, retirement plans, savings accounts and stocks? I wouldn't, not in a million years. Where does this leave me?

When my husband and I were young starting out, we had very little. I knew in the back of my head we were “safe” from this parable lesson. The day I married my husband he was ABD without the dissertation started and had no income. He didn’t even have a car because he had to junk it on the way to the university one morning. Meanwhile, I was working at a local nonprofit. We had nothing but our love and my large inherited real estate debt.

I learned real estate, bought and sold property, then refinanced our current house seven years ago when the interest rates hit rock bottom. One day I told my husband we had earned what we had. He was quick to point out that it was all a gift from God. He was right.

The homeless man reminded me of my wealth.

All the gifts in our lives are precious. Sometimes I think I squander love and friendship much more than money. We can lose everything we love very quickly.

While adding up the terrible investment losses from last year, I thought about everything I could have done with the money to help others and fulfill our dreams. Now I’m reminded it’s never too late to start.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been hanging onto it after all.

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