Spare Change

Jesus says a lot of things. Maybe too many to take him seriously? I'm not sure, maybe we're not sure. He says so many bold things we'd love to chalk up as hyperbole, in fact, a lot of times we do and I'm not so sure if we're supposed to. "Sell your stuff and give to the poor." Well, I suppose that was directed at the rich man, that was for him, I don't think it applies to us, right? Plus that whole 'camel in the eye of a needle' was talking about the entrance to a city, not an actual needle, right?

"Give to anyone who asks". What about homeless people, if you live in a city, you'd be broke in a few days. Plus we're enabling their habits, aren't we?

Maybe all those things Jesus said are fine and good but they don't apply to this day and age. With war and homelessness. Plus the prison system is a joke, we can't visit everyone and we aren't taking care of orphans because there are no orphanages in America, right? Maybe if there were, we'd know who the orphans were so we can visit them and help them. But maybe we'll raise some money every couple years to play soccer (football) with orphans in an orphanage overseas for a week.

These are all thought processes that have entered my head from my own thoughts or things that I've heard fellow Christians say directly.

And there are a hundred blogs lashing out on Obama diminishing the Bible saying "the Sermon on the Mount is a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our department of defense would survive it's application", but I suppose he's just been the first to say it out loud.

Because as we don't like when Obama does it, but we do it ourselves all the time. We make up reasons why "turning the other cheek" doesn't apply. Well, what if they're attacking my family, what if a guy came up and punched me? I think that's what Obama was saying, the same thing we are saying "it doesn't work". But we'd never say that out loud, we just decide that it worked then, but it doesn't apply to us anymore.

Once we start chipping away at Jesus' sanity. Deciding that he might not really know what He's talking about or that his words aren't timeless, then everything else he says gets foggy.

The question that I have to ask myself every few years, when I've realized I've lived the past few years drifting off the tracks, and maybe should ask myself on a daily basis, is "did Jesus really mean what he said?"

Let's start with homelessness and poverty.

"Give to anyone who asks of you"(Luke 6:30) "Give to the one who begs from you" (Matt 5:42) There are literally over 300 verses about giving to the poor in the Bible.

So what about poor people that have put themselves in that situation, what about the poor that just spend their money on HBO, booze and lottery tickets?

What about giving to the poor that are never grateful, never changed, still do the same things they've always been doing and expect more and more from you?

Let's change perspectives for a second. Why is Jesus asking us to give to the poor, give to anyone who asks, etc? Maybe it's not for them, the poor, but for us? Jesus says "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matt 25:40) So if that's true. When you give to Jesus, who gets changed? When you visit Jesus in prison, who is changed? When you play soccer with Jesus, who is changed?

I've yet to hear someone come back from a missions trip say "we changed so many people" they almost always say "I went in expecting to change them, but they really changed me". "I thought I'd teach them, but they taught me", "I thought I'd love them, but they loved me better".

Maybe when we give to an ungrateful, unchanging, enabled poor person, Jesus is allowing us to see how we treat him?

I started writing prisoner #1049790 almost 6 years ago. I started writing him because the Bible says to visit the prisoners and you'll be doing it unto Jesus. I did it for self-righteous reasons at first. Then #1049790 had a name, Dinario. We became friends. I've visited him in Texas three times now. I thought I'd eventually change his life, but actually in a lot of ways he's changed mine. Like I said, if you visit Jesus in prison, who's gonna do the teaching? Jesus is. Dinario is ALWAYS thrilled to get my letters, always excited to hear from me, doesn't ever care what I've done good or bad, always excited to hear how I'm doing, always wants me to write him and tell him about my adventures. I started seeing that I really am doing this unto Jesus. Because it's starting to show me how Jesus sees me. No matter what I've done, he wants to hear from me, always thrilled to hear about my adventures and thoughts.

If I do something wrong, I can feel guilty about it forever and never write Dinario, but if I just stop living in guilt and write him, he'll always be excited to reply. That's a lot how Jesus is. I can live in guilt or I can come to him and bring it to him. So I might never see Dinario's life changed because of me. He's in there for life, so I may never hug him, the most I may ever get to do is a fist bump through an inch of glass. But I know that visiting him really is like visiting Jesus.

Maybe we should turn the other cheek so we know what Jesus went through when he went on the cross, or maybe so we know what we constantly do to Jesus by sinning and him turning the other cheek and still taking us back only to get betrayed by us again?

I don't remember hearing Jesus ever say "change the world". That's not our job, that's his. And as his servants and followers, we need to just obey his commands, because they're hard enough without having the change the world. So if we just follow him, maybe that's how he changes us, maybe some people will come along, but maybe they won't. We aren't told to get results, we are just told to love. Turn the other cheek (to know how we treat Jesus), visit the prisoner (to know how he enjoys our company), to give to the poor (giving grace to a lot of times undeserved and ungrateful shows us how Jesus gives to us, even when we just use his money to feed the habits that got us there in the first place), to help the prostitute we see how trapped we really our and how much Jesus wants us out for our good and not just to boss us around (

When we learn to forgive someone 70 times 7, we are understanding what it's like to be in Jesus' shoes (sandals?). When we forgive, we are truly following Jesus.

How many times does Jesus still show us grace after we've just abused it ten minutes ago? He's still there. He's allowing us to find the joy in places we really don't believe are there.

I haven't figured any of this out or perfected it. Though I'd like to.

your friend,