“My jerrycan is better than yours!” That was one statement that I didn’t hear while in Rwanda recently. Instead, I witnessed a rich sense of community, workers patiently plowing fields, construction laborers literally dancing while they worked and students eager to be at school as early as they could so that they could begin another day of study and growth!
One late afternoon, as we walked down the dusty road outside of Hope Haven Rwanda, Susan and I stopped to exchange fist bumps and smiles with some children filling up jerrycans as part of their daily chores. We were overjoyed to see them smiling, engaging with each other and finding purpose and fulfillment in the mundane chores of life.
There is an innate dignity and beauty in every human being. We are all made in the image of God, and He calls us to different places, at different times, for different purposes. It is important for each of us to avoid comparing ourselves, or the resources we have been given, with others. Instead, mature believers grow in their ability to be grateful for what God has given them, and to learn to steward what God has given in a way that pleases Him. When we learn to steward well, we learn to give well.
As my friend Will Stevens writes in his excellent book, “God’s Givers: Seven Old Testament Stories of Fearless Giving,” God has entrusted each one of us with gifts—not to hoard them, but to share them. He asks, “When we consider our possessions, do we focus on the fact that what we have comes from God and belongs to Him? Or are we convinced that we own our cars, homes, finances, etc.? Do we carefully consider our obligation to be good and faithful stewards of all that the Lord entrusts to us?”
When Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he shared excitedly about the generosity of the Macedonian churches, even though they were experiencing a devastating famine. In 2 Corinthians 8:2-4, Paul wrote, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people.”
I am not naïve enough to believe that unhealthy competition or jealousy does not exist among Rwandans in our neighborhood, but I do believe that our Western culture has created extravagant idols out of material possessions. We are bombarded with messages about how much better life would be if we only had this or that. We are overwhelmed by opportunities to exchange our cash, and maybe our souls, for material goods. Each of these earthly products will soon wilt away, but we have an opportunity to invest in treasures that will never fade!
Will concludes, “Let our faith speak through our attitudes about our wealth and echo in our willingness and our joy to dedicate what we have to the Lord and direct it to His works, His ministries. Let us guard what the Lord has given us and glorify Him through our spirit of generosity.”