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January 9

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

“Comparisons are odious”

I remember reading that years ago but I can’t remember where. It just stuck with me. I do know part of it was that “odious” was not a word I used in my vocabulary…like never. 🙂

In Bill-speak that saying would be “comparisons are stupid.” In Oxford-speak that word is defined as “extremely unpleasant, repulsive.”

We have a bad habit of comparing ourselves to others. “He is taller than me.” “He plays baseball or basketball better than me.” What teen girl hasn’t compared her looks, her hair, or her physical characteristics to another? Influencers (the bane of existence) are constantly telling us “How to…” Adults compare houses, cars, and even bank accounts.  There seems to be no end to our comparison.

It certainly happens in the church world. “He is a better preacher, teacher, singer, player, etc than me.” “He/she is wealthier than me so he gives more and what I give doesn’t matter.”

STOP!! HOLD THE PRESSES! SAY WHAT??? I have yet to see anywhere…ANYWHERE…that God’s Word makes that a criteria for serving Him. In fact, I read Luke 21 this morning and I love verses 1-4. It is the story of Jesus standing by and watching people give and a widow comes and gives her two mites (less than a penny in our currency). Pay particular attention to verses 3-4: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (NLT)  Jesus put those “comparison-pickers” in their place. This widow gave all she had in comparison to the religious leaders who were mighty proud of themselves and thought they were all that and more. Looking down their noses at the “lesser givers” gave them a sense of being high and mighty. Jesus said, “Oh no. Not on my watch. This widow gave more.”

You see, it really doesn’t matter how much. It really does come down to your heart and the attitude in which you give. This widow gave all she had. Hang the comparison.

December 7

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

One of my favorite short stories of all that generally is read, seen, or heard during the Christmas season (besides the real story of the birth of Jesus), is the one written by O’Henry called The Gift of the Magi.  It would be hard for me to find or believe there being someone who has not read or heard of this story, but just in case…

I understand that O’Henry’s personal life was in turmoil at the time of writing this story, which makes this story even more incredible. He tells the story of a young couple (Jim & Della) who are deeply in love but dirt poor. It is Christmas time and they each wanted to get the other a gift. To summarize: when it comes time for them to give each other their gift, Jim gives Della combs for her beautiful, long hair, and Della gives Jim a beautiful gold chain for his pocket watch. The beauty of the story is that Della cut her hair and sold it to buy the chain: Jim sold his watch to buy the combs. The ending of the story says, “Of all who give and receive gifts, these two were the most wise.”

The story has one overarching lesson (among many): sacrifice for another is the greatest gift of all. Speaking from a 2023 viewpoint, can you imagine the love they had for each other to 1) take a most prized possession (hair and watch) and sell it for 2) the ultimate gift of sacrifice to one you love? After Della hands Jim the chain which she is so proud of buying, he tells her about selling his watch to by her combs and then tells here, “We should put our gifts away and have our meal.” O’Henry’s point can’t be missed: is there any greater gift than sacrificing for another?

Need I make the point? Jesus. Cross. Sacrifice. Giving up His life for those whom He loved and loves.

We are wise (magi) if we follow His example.