How to be a better person? # 21

PICKING ON MY SIZE

I have, and so did you take on more than we can handle. Jesus had some very somber advice for us on projects overestimating our ability and strength. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'” “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand men? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Lk. 14:28-350.

Jesus gave this talk to people that wanted others to do things for them. “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:27). As it was then so it is with us today. We, too, want others to carry our burdens and provide us with food and shelter. We want the big people to do for us what we small people are not willing to do for ourselves. It has become tragic that we do not even want to pitch in and help. Just listen to the promises of our political leaders and the free lunches Religions offer. We are being guaranteed that God accepts us for what we are and not for what we ought to be. It seems, to me, that we shall belong to those that have failed to estimate the cost of being a better person. I have and still am seriously consider whether I can reach my destination without adding the little I can do to grace to become acceptable by carrying my own cross? I am 82 and I have not completed to build my life. I am like an old house with a leaky roof and cracks in the walls. Here is the problem. Instead of repairing my own life and dwelling, I took on the bigger problems of others. Was it a noble venture or would I have gained Jesus’ approval? Well, I did it. I even took out loans to help where I could; but I never overextended my means to carry my own cross. I lost some heavy loans, but not what I needed to keep my own house in order. We lived within our own means.

We do not need more than we can pay for or earn the wages that can pay for what we need. We drive by unfinished and vacant homes. We have three sons and two lost their homes. All these people built on faith and not on what they could afford when the economy collapsed. The idea that we must attempt big things is not a Biblical concept. In fact, it is an idea that tempts God and challenges Him to do what we failed to measure by our own size. My youngest brother fell into that trap. He believed that God wanted him to build two more homes. He had two already and lost all four. We lived in New York City and we had to move our Church from Hell’s Kitchen to the Island. We began by sacrificing the minister’s residence. With the money we acquired another parcel with a residence for building purposes. Then we sold the Church building and merged with another congregation by paying for their debts. Then we sold the parcel we had intended to build on and we ended with $70,000 in the bank. We did it by sitting down, estimating the cost and then carried out our move. Yes, we asked the Lord for His blessing, but not for allowing us to step outside our limitations.

The ten Hebrew spies that were sent by Moses to explore Canaan have been given a bad rap. They knew their own size and the size of their people in comparison to the Canaanites. At the time, the Israelites were grasshoppers in comparison to the giants they wanted to conquer. It was not just a lack of faith in what God could do, but in what they were unable to do. It would take forty years to cement the tribes into a union and it took just as long for the Canaanite union to disintegrate (Num. 13). When Joshua took his people across the Jordan River, he faced cities and towns and not a united people. It is likely that God had Moses sit down and consider their cost and readiness (Josh. 3-6). The Bible has many good examples of what our leaders could do in case we have serious shortages. A wise Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the food supply, who showed the Egyptians how to live within their means and during seven years of drought when the lean cows and ears of corn swallowed up the fat ones (Gen. 40-41). We are facing a time when those that gather or save nothing for themselves shall swallow up those that that do and did. I live in three such countries. We had countries like the U.S.A. help us. Who will help us with no America?

The benefits for picking on my own size are enormous. I compare myself with no one and take careful stock of what I have to work with. I do not even gamble with anything or anyone that is or who is bigger than I am. We lost everything three times during and after World War II and we owed no one anything but love or gratitude that we survived (Ro. 13:8). That is the principle we still use today. We have long learned that we can live without taking unnecessary risks. More than that, I (we) cannot depend on anyone else to carry my (our) cross. My cross fits only my size and yours only you. If you want me to pick up your cross along with mine, I will go down and you will fall with me. Make no mistake cross bearing is an individual responsibility and not that of a group, a community or a nation. God made me strong enough to carry it. Jesus said so and I find it to be so every day. It is when I start meddling by engaging in other people’ crosses that I neglect my own. The best help I can be to others is when I carry the cross that fit my size with dignity.