The Other Side of the Wall
The sun had disappeared and the scattered clouds in the west were shimmering like the glowing embers of a dying fire. Most of the citizens had secured their homes for the night and a sense of despair and futility again settled down on the city as dusk slowly overtook the streets. Few of the people had even looked at the colors of the night sky. They hadn’t marveled at the splendor of the sunset. Few had noticed.
Beauty and splendor often go unnoticed when the stomach is empty. It is hard to contemplate the magnificence of creation, when the body is ravaged by hunger pangs. When your children are hungry, and you feel your own body begin to slow down from starvation and your mind refusing to think clearly.
On that night as the twilight darkened, four men eased themselves away from the gate and moved slowly along the city wall. Anyone looking on could easily have sensed their intense fear, as they moved slowly with cautious steps and furtive glances. But no one was watching.
The city of Samaria was built on a long oval hill, and as these four men stepped carefully away from the city wall, they could see below and around them hundreds of tents belonging to the invading army. The Bible says that these men were lepers, and having realized that death from starvation was imminent, they decided to approach the invading Syrian army that had surrounded them and plead for mercy. As they cautiously approached the outer tents their minds must have raced with possible entreaties. No doubt they fully expected to be annihilated by the enemy and the most they could hope for was a quick death. But imagine their shock! The invading army had departed in haste, leaving all their belongings, food, and wealth behind.
The Bible says that these lepers “went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it: and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.” 2 Kings 7.8
We can imagine the sight. Ravenous men. Destitute lepers. Men who had been at the bottom of the food chain in a city full of starving people, suddenly surrounded with seemingly endless food and wealth. The Bible says that they satisfied their immediate hunger, and then in a flurry of activity they began hurriedly carrying their new-found treasure to a place of hiding.
Suddenly in the midst of their busyness, they must have stopped and looked at each other. “Why, it was just yesterday that we were starving, and now we are stuffed. Just a few hours ago we were preparing to die, and now we have more wealth than we can carry or store.”
And then perhaps one of them saw the wall. Right there beside them was the city wall. They had forgotten. Forgotten that others were starving. Forgotten the dying children, the emaciated bodies, and the hunger. Forgotten the discouragement, the misery, and the pain. They had forgotten the other side of the wall.
When they finally came to themselves “they said one to another, We do not well: this is a day of good tidings and we hold our peace.” 2 Kings 7.9 In other words,” Something is not right here. We are suffering from overeating and struggling to find a place to store all of our stuff, and just over that wall people are starving!”
We live in a setting today that has many similarities to this Biblical account of Samaria in the time of Elisha. In our world over half of the people exist on less than two American dollars per day, and an estimated 35 thousand children die each day from hunger and preventable diseases. But on our side of the wall we struggle with widespread obesity. Some children are told to clean up their plates, while others have never seen a full one.
It is a world of astonishing imbalance. Here in America we see the pictures and read the stories of extreme poverty in the world, and in the midst of our plenty we occasionally look at each other and wonder; what about those on the other side of the wall? Like the lepers we wonder if we are doing well. With bent brows we discuss the dilemma. We wonder what the Lord is thinking as He watches how we use His resources. We consider these things like the lepers did. We ponder, for we know that our Father has an intense love for all of His children, and in His eyes, there is no wall.
How does our Father want His resources used? How can we be good stewards of what the Lord has put into our hands? What is the proper response to our dilemma? We would like to consider six principles that we feel are important to our Father:
Christians give. It can be no other way. It is simply part of being indwelt by the Ultimate Giver. The Apostle Paul, while encouraging the wealthy church at Corinth to share with poor believers in another country said, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich. 2 Corinthians 8.9 Notice what Paul is saying; The Lord Jesus abandoned His own self to reach over the wall to us. That is why giving of our resources is a part of every man who has the indwelling Christ within. Giving is simply the natural response of a heart that realizes that every resource he is surrounded with is unearned and undeserved. A professing believer who does not have within his heart a burning desire to bless others has either lost, or never had, a vision of what God has done for him. Every giver may not be a Christian; but every true Christian will be a giver.
2. Begin at Home
When Jesus gave his disciples instruction on reaching out to the world with the message of salvation, He told them to start at home. Luke records Jesus saying “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24.47
Jesus didn’t say that they should never help away from home, but that they should begin at home. Sometimes there is a certain amount of glamour and excitement that goes with serving away from home that is utterly lacking in the mundane tasks near home.
We can abuse this principle. We can, like the lawyer that came to Jesus, use this principle to define who our neighbor is. We can choose to live in a nice country setting and help any neighbor who is in need, subconsciously knowing that the odds of anyone having a serious need close to our middle class locale are extremely small. Our heart can be deceitful on both ends of this spectrum and Satan would love to use debate regarding where to help, to hinder kingdom service.
3. Give Quietly
Jesus gave us a method to analyze our motives; am I willing to give unnoticed? If our heart is motivated by a love for the Lord, we won’t mind if He is the only observer. Sometimes we try to use this principle to examine our brother. It is easy to assume that a brother is just promoting himself if he mentions some kingdom activity he has been involved in.
But sometimes we are too quick to judge. The Apostle Paul listed many ways that the Lord had used him. He tells of persecutions that he endured for the Lord, and ways in which he had been spent for the gospel. Since he told this about himself, must we assume that this was simply pride in his life and self-promotion? Are you able to rejoice when a brother shares what the Lord has done in his life without assuming that he is exalting himself? We need self examination, and our motives need constant monitoring. Jesus gave us the principle of giving quietly, to help us assist us in this process.
4. Give Sacrificially
The disciples must have scratched their heads at the words of Jesus as they sat in the temple and watched people put money in the treasury box. It probably seemed to them that the widow hardly put enough in the box to be worth her time. We can only imagine what they must have whispered to each other; “Did you hear that? Did he really say that the poor widow gave more than all of those wealthy merchants? Didn’t He see how much some of them gave?”
Jesus seemed to be more interested in the size of the sacrifice than the size of the gift. Are we willing to sacrifice something to give? Sometimes it seems that our giving consists mainly of the unwanted and unneeded. It isn’t difficult to give money if it was unneeded. There is no great sacrifice in giving time if it was spare time and not allocated for anything anyway.
Are you willing to sacrifice to share? Do you consciously abandon something to give? Remember the widow and her two mites; we tend to look at what is given, but God’s eye has always been on what is kept.
5. Recommit your life to Biblical Stewardship of Resources:
Is it difficult for the delivery man to take a package from his truck that may be worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, and leave it on your step? Of course not. The delivery man understands that this is his job. In fact, he probably wouldn’t keep his job very long if he started taking some of the valuable packages home with him. As stewards, we are God’s delivery men. God gives us resources with the intent that we deliver them. Paul in writing to the church at Ephesus and speaking of the believer said, ...let him labor, working with his hands…that he may give to him that needeth. Eph. 4.28 On our side of the wall in a capitalistic society, it is easy to begin regarding resources as something I have earned and therefore belong to me. If they belong to me, then they are for my own pleasure and enjoyment. But Jesus has called us to become stewards instead of owners. This will have a tremendous impact on our choices.
But being a faithful steward is more than abstaining from extravagant homes, expensive vacations, costly recreational equipment, or luxury vehicles. It is recognizing that all that we have is God’s and putting God’s resources to work. Idle time is poor stewardship; but so is idle money sitting in the bank when many are in need. Analyze your own heart. Do your choices in life reflect that you are a steward, or an owner?
6. Appreciate Diversity Within the Body:
Paul in writing to the church at Corinth reminded them of the differing gifts that God has placed within the church. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all. 1Corinthians 12.4-6 It is obvious that God not only created diversity, but He uses it within the church in reaching out to others. We are not all called to the same task. We do not all have the same abilities.
I spoke to a bedridden sister recently who confided that she spends her time praying for others throughout the day and during the night when sleep doesn’t come. She is using time, the only resource God has given her, to reach outside of herself and bless others. That is the role of a faithful steward. Whether you are a mother taking food to a shut-in, or a brother helping those struggling in poverty, our God asks that we share His resources as we have opportunity.
Consistently applying Jesus’ teachings on our side of the wall is not easy. Our prayer is that the Lord would give each of us wisdom to properly use His resources, and properly respond to need. May we learn to see through the compassionate eyes of our loving Heavenly Father, as He looks down each day, and watches over both the starving and the stuffed.