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 (Manna 56: Holidays)
Spend the Love
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Spend the Love

Joannie Yeh—Chicago, Illinois, USA

            Owe no one anything except to love one another. (Rom 13:8)

OWE NO ONE ANYTHING

Once in a while, when it comes time to pay the check after a delectable dinner, I realize that my wallet is empty, so I borrow from a friend to spot my meal. Aware of my own forgetfulness, I try and write it down. Owe Melissa $10. Go to ATM. I am usually prompt with this sort of thing, so within a week the note can be tossed out, debt repaid.

Pay where you owe, and avoid owing for things you don’t need or can’t afford.

“To owe” means that we are bound or under obligation to fulfill a certain responsibility. The government, loan companies, and our banks are keeping track of our progress in paying back education, housing, and business loans. God and the conscience He blessed us with are keeping track, so we should pay our debts off without delay to the best of our ability.

Have a library fine? Pay it.

Have a loan from a friend? No matter how menial the amount, don’t forget to pay it.

Have a speeding ticket? Argue it if you have a case, but if the judgment is still against you then pay it.

Have an income? Tally up your wages, render to the government what belongs to the government, and pay it.

But there’s another debt that binds us.

EXCEPT TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER

We dwell deep in the debt of the love of God.

            For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:7, 8)

We are nothing, unworthy of a second glance, and yet God chose us. God freely gave us His love, His Son to die on the cross for us so that we would not be found lacking. Through Jesus Christ, our debt to God has already been forgiven and the road to salvation opened.

By what coincidence did I survive my bouts of bronchitis as a child and receive enough time as a young adult to know the peace and almightiness of God? By what chance did I not get hit by a bus while I was absentmindedly running too close to the street? By what deeds did I deserve the prayers of so many brothers and sisters during a difficult time? Not by luck, not by my goodness, but by the amazing love of God.

We owe God so much. While most lenders demand that we pay back the loan, God does not demand the same. God is almighty and all knowing, so He doesn’t need the things He has given us. He obligates us to pay it back, but not to Him. Rather, He says,

            “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mt 25:40)

We pay God back by spending His blessings to benefit those around us who may be in need of shelter, a warm cup of soup, a warm hug, kind words of encouragement, or piercing words of gospel truth.

LET’S SPEND THE LOVE

            “[F]or I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” (Mt 25:35, 36)

By what coincidence do we come to know someone who is hungering for a sandwich? Thirsting for the secret to contentment? Shivering for a blanket? Despairing for healing of an empty heart? Imprisoned by jealousy, greed, or pursuit of money? By what coincidence do we have one, two, or five talents of resources, time, or strength to offer? All by the amazing love of God. Do we clench our fists tight over what we’ve been given, or do we willingly spend the love?

Opportunities to spend the love permeate our lives. Sometimes the love is spent on scheduled visits to a nursing home, while other times the love is allotted for unexpected giving and helping at natural disasters. Sometimes love is given to a close friend, while other times love is collected by a stranger. Either way, we should spend the love as if God is the one who ultimately receives the payment.

In Our Family

As people physically or emotionally move away from their families, we have to remind ourselves of the standards in the Bible. Jesus said to “‘honor your father and your mother’” before He said to “‘love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mt 19:19). It may not be the world’s way, but it is God’s way. Whether your family members are believers or not, spend love on them within obedience to the Lord.

When I was two, I told my grandfather that I would buy a house for my parents and a house for my grandparents. I am not quite financially able to accomplish this goal that my grandfather often teases me about, but I spend what I can on them.

In college, I called my parents at least once every evening so that they would know I was okay and we could quickly catch up. When I started working and living at home, I wrote checks to my parents as reassurance that I would take care of them throughout my life. It was my gesture, not the slight increase in their bank account, that made them happy.

Now I am back in school and living at home. I don’t have much money to spend on my parents anymore, but I try and spend time with them. We share at our meals, discussing how work is going, what my latest career plans are, or the news. We often pray together at night.

Still, I am a work in progress. Sometimes I snap at my parents or neglect to do house chores, but I thank God that I am aware of my weaknesses, sometimes through the help of my parents spending a reminder on me, telling me to spend a gentler voice and more attention on my family.

In Our Church

I see love spent every Sabbath. Religious education teachers prepare fun activities and probing questions to help their students learn about God. Church members chip in to sweep the floor, scrub the toilets, and wash the dishes, taking care of the church as they would their own home.

Instead of scurrying out the church door as soon as service ends to spend our time at a basketball court, a coffee shop, a mall, or a golf course, we must scurry to find out how else and where else in God’s temple we can spend a helping hand.

We also have many members in remote areas. If you are blessed to live near a church, spend a trip, spend a call, or spend an email. If we find ourselves wondering why no one has called us or cares about us, perhaps it is time we spend a call and care on someone who might be wondering the same thing.

Our youth and campus fellowships are communities to spend some nourishment on so that we can help each other glow brightly for our own faith and for all those who see us. There are countless ways we can encourage each other, and 1 Corinthians chapter 13 captures all the proper attitudes we should have when we spend our love.

Patience might be needed to usher a stray sheep back to the fold. Our own interests might need to be sacrificed to warn a member who is about to make an unwise financial, marital, or spiritual decision. And whatever we need to say, we must not lash out at anyone in church with rudeness. Spend some gentleness. These qualities may take some spent time to cultivate, but remember that practice and prayer make perfect.

There is another community we need to remember. While the middle-aged adults are busy with their careers and children, and the children are busy with their games in their own little worlds, many elderly people might feel left out or useless, especially if they do not speak English or are new believers.

Anyone who has a few seconds to spare should spend some attention on them. Just spend a hello on each of them each week and watch their lips widen and open. Whether that smile reveals dentures, gaps, or lack of teeth, you will want to show your pearly whites, too.

In Our Community

The community includes neighbors, workplace colleagues, classmates, coffee shop servers, restaurant waiters and waitresses, clients, customers, or anybody around us. Spend some kindness on everyone, even if the grocery store clerk rolls her eyes because you asked for a price check, or even if you are the grocery store clerk whose customer just decided to return half the items after you already scanned them into the cash register.

Spend some patience on the first-time waitress who brought you a blueberry scone instead of the walnut biscotti. We encounter different people with varying moods and attitudes every day so that God can see how we spend our reactions. Spend wisely. Spend joyfully.

God has even opened up a way for us to love those we do not know. Our taxes pay for social services that help the less privileged in our communities. If we dutifully fill out our tax forms, then we can help those who do not have food, clothes, or shelter. God opened a way for us to earn wages, and God opened a way for us to extend our wages to help others.

We can even seek out those in need. Campuses and urban centers, as well as the suburbs, are volunteer-filled organizations. Join them by yourself, or join them with fellowship members.

I joined alternate spring break after learning about it from another church sister who had participated in college. The organization sends students on community service trips during spring break. I went to Maine one spring to help build homes, among other tasks. One of them was to shovel horse manure so that the farm boy could take a break to see his family in another city.

I also became involved with Reach-A-Peer helpline, a night phone service that offered students anonymous and confidential conversations and referrals. Now, I volunteer at a free clinic run by students in my medical school.

Into Heaven

While we can spend endless hours tutoring kids, serving meals in soup kitchens, or encouraging friends in a difficult time, we must also remember the greatest love we can spend. If we spend time preaching to our friends and family and teaching them how to rely on God, then we can help people help themselves in daily life and in faith.

Spend the gospel on them. Spend your testimonies on them, telling of how putting God first and worshipping Him the way you do has given you peace and joy. We were nothing, and yet God gave us His only Son. Spend that story and spend your life experiences to attract people to God so that He can directly spend His promise of eternal life and blessings on them. Spend your hope of salvation on another soul.

Have a blessing? Pay it to someone in need of encouragement.

Have an hour? Pay it to someone who is lonely.

Have the Holy Spirit? Pay it to someone in need of prayer.

Have the truth? Pay it to someone whom Jesus has led to you.

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Author: Joannie Yeh
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