The king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
- Matthew 25:40 (NRSV)
While driving home from Philadelphia, my wife and I stopped at a red light before crossing the bridge into southern New Jersey. At the light was a poor man wearing rosaries and carrying a bucket of soapy water and a squeegee. He started to wash the car’s front window. I yelled at him to stop and told him that I would not pay him for his labor. The poor man explained that he had to work to eat; if I did not want to pay him, that was between God and me.
My wife pulled out a dollar and gave it to him when he finished his job and the light turned green. My wife was shocked by my behavior and said that turning down someone in need was not like me. She then recited Matthew 25:40. I was speechless; I knew she was right and that I had sinned.
As we pulled into our driveway at home, I realized that I am blessed and that others need help from those more fortunate. Since this incident, I have been more generous toward those in need. I hope and pray that I am never so close-fisted again.
Christ comes to us in every needy person.
O God of forgiveness and understanding, thank you for forgiving our sins. Help us to be more generous and to give to those less fortunate. Help us remember to treat our brothers and sisters as we would treat you. Amen.
[Those who do not listen to the wicked] are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season.
- Psalm 1:3 (NRSV)
Several years ago, I traveled to Zimbabwe on a work assignment. The country was experiencing a terrible drought that year. All along the highway we could see the devastating results of the lack of rain — the dusty, dried-out fields containing no vegetation, the carcasses of thousands of livestock strewn across the countryside.
However, when we reached Victoria Falls, I saw an incredible sight. The forest in the immediate vicinity was as green and lush as anything I had ever seen. I soon learned the reason: The natural spray from the river, as it plunges over the high cliffs, literally creates a constant “rain” or mist over the area.
The presence of that lush rain forest in the midst of such a devastating drought revealed a profound truth: We too can live in the midst of drought, not a drought of water but a drought of compassion, understanding, and love — a drought of the heart. This inner drought leaves us as thirsty and hopeless as the bony farm animals on the side of the road in Zimbabwe.
The refreshment we need comes from God, who ministers to our drought-weary hearts through a song, the kind words of a friend, an unexpected telephone call, or a note sent in the mail. Bathed in God’s love, we become part of the stream ourselves, flowing and nurturing others. Those ever-flowing streams bathe us in the refreshing spray of God’s love and care.
Who needs me to offer God’s life-giving water today?
Dear Lord, help us to receive your life-giving water today. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
The psalmist wrote, “O Lord, my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”
- Psalm 30:2 (NIV)
A few years ago, I fell in a parking lot and shattered my left wrist. Not long after that, I lost my job. Then a sister-in-law, two brothers, two close friends, and my father died. I felt that my life and my spirit were as shattered as my wrist.
While going through physical therapy for my wrist and hand, I spent time with God in meditation and Bible reading; I also got more involved in the church. As my body healed, so did my spirit.
Though the broken bone healed, I cannot bend the fingers on my left hand. When my grandson, Logan, commented about this, I told him my fingers remind me that when we fall physically or spiritually, God is there to pick us up and put us back together. Logan kissed my hand and said, “When you get to heaven, God will give you a brand new hand!”
God has promised us eternal life without pain or sorrow, where all things will be made new. Whether our hurts are physical, emotional, or spiritual, God can and does make us whole again.
To see a picture of Elaine with her son and grandson, go to devotional.upperroom.org/blog.
Dear God, mold and shape us into the people you want us to be. Amen.
The psalmist wrote, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
- Psalm 139:14 (NRSV)
Compared to many in my new school, I was from “the wrong side of town.” I had to catch two buses to attend school, while many of my classmates arrived in luxury cars. Being on time or staying for extra activities was difficult for me if one of the buses was late. Making friends was a struggle. I felt that I was judged to be not good enough when some girls discovered where I lived, what my father did for a living, or that my mother had no career outside the home. I began to pray that God would give me a friend. In time, God did give me a new friend and later a whole group of friends.
Neither my parents nor my brother were able to finish their schooling, but they sacrificed to give me an opportunity to complete my education. Eventually, I qualified as a teacher and later as a minister. The key to my achievements was discovering that God not only listens to our prayers but accepts all of us — even me.
I am glad that God does not value us according to where we live, how educated we may or may not be, or our material wealth. God simply loves us and longs to be in loving relationship with us.
God loves you just as you are.
Dear Lord, thank you for your interest in each of us, regardless of who we are or where we come from. Amen.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”
- Luke 10:41-42 (NIV)
The phone rang. A church member had died, and I was asked to organize a luncheon for the family after the funeral. I had never done anything like this before. I felt overwhelmed and anxious. After a restless night, I arrived bleary-eyed in the fellowship-hall kitchen. People started arriving in groups, talking and laughing, to assist with the meal. They didn’t seem overly concerned about the task at hand. We were able to get everything ready by the time the family members arrived. They were grateful, and I saw that all my worry had been unnecessary.
In the story of Mary and Martha, Martha spends her time in the kitchen preparing the meal. I was like Martha, overwhelmed by preparations and worried about getting the work done. Mary chose the better way by sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words.
At times we worry about performing our tasks more than focusing on our Lord. The better thing is to stop and listen to Jesus. Since we cannot literally sit at Jesus’ feet, we can ask the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us to pray, to understand scripture, to relate to others, and to be more Christlike in our love. In becoming more like Mary, I can be a better Martha.
How did I spend time listening to Christ today?
Dear God, when we give in to anxiety, show us a better way. Amen.