When I was eight, my family moved across the country. Everything we owned was in a moving truck.
During the cross-country trip, we woke up one morning to discover our moving truck had been stolen in the night and everything we owned was gone. So instead of moving into our own home, we had to move in with Grandma until we could accumulate some basic necessities for living.
Grandma lived in a small town, and everyone had heard about our plight, so folks would put bags of hand-me-down clothes and household items on Grandma’s front porch, ring the doorbell, and leave. Even though I literally had nothing to wear other than one or two changes of clothing, I hated sorting through those bags. I’d find dirty clothes with stains and holes. Sometimes I’d even find a sock without a match.
One day a lady came to the front door with a box of dishes.
She sounded so cheerful. She said she heard we didn’t have any dishes, and she had just bought a new set herself, so she didn’t need her old dishes anymore. She was so happy someone could use her old dishes. It must have been God’s special timing, she said, that she happened to buy new dishes that week. She handed my mom the box of old dishes and left.
I followed my mom as she carried the box to Grandma’s kitchen table. When she pulled out a plate, I must have grimaced. They were the ugliest dishes I’d ever seen. My mom never said a word. She set them on the table, walked to her borrowed bedroom, and closed the door. I could hear her crying on the other side.
We were pretty squeezed in Grandma’s two-bedroom house. Eventually we were able to move into a rental of our own, but for the next two years, we ate off those dishes. I hated every meal. They reminded me of our poverty, of our lack of agency. We couldn’t afford to buy new dishes.
I sometimes wondered about the woman who gave us her old dishes. She must have had an entire home full of possessions she selected herself, while our home was an odd mish-mash of donations.
What if she had given us, a family with nothing, her new set of dishes instead of her old ones?
How might that have brightened an otherwise dreary day every time we sat down for dinner?
In the early church, many believers knew the sting of poverty. It’s about this time James wrote his letter, encouraging believers to put their faith into action.
Because it’s not enough to say we believe in God.
True faith is evidenced by caring deeds. James says it’s not enough to tell someone in need, “I wish you well,” but then do nothing for their physical needs.
This week Hurricane Harvey is hitting Houston hard. No doubt many families will be left with nothing. I’m sure there will be organizations that will help, but there’s something we can do too. We can put our faith into action.
But when we put our faith into action, let’s do so with generous hearts.
Let’s not “give” our unwanted junk to other people. Let’s emulate our heavenly Father, if even in this small way, and let’s be givers of good gifts.
Because the most important thing we could ever give another human being is dignity.
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*A part of this post has been excerpted from Word Writers: James.