2.25.2009

a crust or a Kingdom?

"Jesus said to him, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.' But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions." -Matthew 19:21 (NKJV)

During our 2 days in Chicago at Moody's Founders Week (see previous post for details), we had some down time and got to wander around the city. While one of those was just a dinner time walk to Ed Debevic's so I could throw a roll at the waiter, another was time in a shopping district at a very nice Borders and a very scary American Girl store. ((shudder))

Personally, I would have preferred to sit in on more sessions at Moody, but I stayed with the group for the most part. Eventually I decided to go back and catch a late session. The group was going for pizza anyway, and it's always best for me to take care of myself when it comes to food. (Cranky digestive system.) So I marched the several blocks back only to find the session was full and they didn't allow standing room.

Drat. Separated from my group in downtown Chicago with nothing to do for a few hours.

I made a call and decided to head back to where they were. Maybe I couldn't eat the stuff, but I didn't mind the company or the exercise to get there. "There" happened to be Giordano's Restaurant and Pizzeria, a finer Italian establishment.

As I made my turn onto Rush Street and was just about to enter the restaurant, a man walked up to me and asked if I had any spare change. While it is my policy to never stand on the sidewalk with an open wallet or encourage pan handling, I could honestly say I did not. However, trying to practice the love of Christ, I told the guy I was meeting a group and if he came in we'd feed him.

You could see his wheels turning. Was I serious?

"You'll feed me?" he asked.

"Yeah, come on," said I.

But no, no. He said he didn't want to interrupt. (Now the guy just stopped me on the sidewalk to ask for change. Was that not an interruption?) But I insisted I was serious, and told him to come in. So he came inside.

I told him to wait by the front door and I'd look for my group, who of course were clear at the back. I didn't know if he'd hang around, but I found him again, asked his name and said, "Come with me." He did, and I introduced him to the group as we got him a chair.

He nearly immediately launched into a story of how he recently lost his job as a forklift operator and was on hard times. But as soon as the youth pastor and I began discussing food, he got nervous again and said he didn't want to intrude (again). This time nothing we said would get him to stay. All we had on the table at this point was one small piece of bread which we gave him to take with. He shook my hand to thank me and walked out.

And that was that. We went on with a nice meal, and pizza left over. I managed a bowl of clam chowder (PTL, happy tummy) and gratefully enjoyed that. The leftover pizza went to a bus driver, who was ecstatic for the gift.

I later considered just what our friend at Giordano's gave up.

We were offering him a full meal, for free, and given the chance would have extended him an invitation into the Kingdom of God. Instead, he settled for a crust of bread and a handshake. He could have left satisfied physically and spiritually, dinner in his stomach and an heir of the One who owns everything. Instead, he walked out with nothing but a morsel to continue his brief life on Earth a mere street beggar.

While the harsh reality breaks my heart, it also makes me think. I think of all the times I see people so quickly willing to settle. I know I've done it myself. We settle for the immediate, for the here and now, for the thing we think will satisfy in the moment or the emotion we won't let go while completely ignoring an eternity to come. We settle for the tiny, insignificant things we think this world has to offer instead of the fullness of God's glory and the joy of knowing Him.

So these are my questions to you... (And don't stop reading here, Christian. This is for you too.)

Are you going to settle for a "crust of bread" today, that little thing that satisfies some perceived, immediate desire without any further commitment? Or are you ready to be full and rich in joy, completely satisfied by God Himself?

Certainly if you don't know Him, or have doubts to that end, I ask you to consider who He is and what He's done. Jesus died for you, for every wrong you ever did, and rose again so you can be an heir of God and spend eternity with Him, if you're willing to accept. He offers you infinitely more than all the little things this world has to offer combined. He's offering you Himself. Think about it.

If you do know Him, or think you do, then think about the statement above. Read it again. Remember what He did for you. Think about it. Really think! The God of the universe died for you and wants you to want Him with every fiber of your being. Do you? Or are you just willing to settle? Are you already an heir but still living as a beggar? Have you heard it all before and think, "That's great. I get to go to Heaven. Now, God, make me happy with Your stuff."? (No, you won't think those exact words. But you'll mean them.) Or are you ready to truly seek Him, trust Him, love Him, thank Him and give up everything else just to have Him?

So, what will it be? A crust or a Kingdom? Don't walk away begging for a morsel and miss out on the satisfaction of more than a meal. Wait and realize what God really has to offer—Himself. And He is everything.

"...the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
-Matthew 13:44-45 (NKJV)

(This story was also shared for Resurrection Day 2009.)

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