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November 21st, 2017
The book of Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and the continuing story of what Jesus continued to do through the church by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a remarkable story! I noticed something when I read Acts 3 the other morning.
There is a beggar, a guy who cannot walk, looking for handouts near the temple area. The Apostles Peter and John are on their way to the Temple to pray. This guy sees them and gives his usual appeal for cash. They see him. Peter and John both direct their gaze at him.
It's not too different from our own freeway entrances. There are always people in need. We don’t always give them our "gaze," our full attention. It’s not too different from what happens in our own homes: our child needs our attention, our spouse has given us clues to their emotional and physical needs. The question is what do we offer? It’s a similar situation to when our neighbors and friends have an experience that cripples them. They may ask for something, but underneath the surface there is a deeper need. The question is what need do we see?
The table is set — there is a request and the Apostles are attentive, compassionate enough to engage. What the Apostles say in response struck me in a way that it hadn’t before: “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.”
They look beneath the request. Cash would have been significantly less valuable than an ability to walk. Being crippled was what kept the man in poverty. They offer something that will address the foundational issues that cause his daily need to beg at the Temple. But this is still not the thing that struck me.
We know from the previous chapter that the disciples shared everything in common. There was a benevolence fund, in other words, that was available to the Apostles to draw from. They could have said, "we know where the silver and gold are and we can get you connected to a great resource called the church. But that isn’t what they did. It is, however, often what we do. We look at our financial ability, whether individually or corporately, to address the problems we face. We throw money at problems. We are Americans. We’ve been doing that a long time, and it's done a fair amount of good. It's also not done a lot of good. The disciples offer something greater than money. They offer what they perceive to be their central and only offering worth mentioning.
Peter and John offered what they knew they had — Jesus. I think what hit me was that we often offer what we think we have — money. When we fail to offer Jesus, it reveals what we truly think we have to offer. Maybe we offer something other than money when we perceive needs around us. Maybe we offer our opinions, maybe our quick fixes, maybe our judgements, maybe our excuses, maybe nothing at all. The point is that we, like Peter and John, offer what we think we have to offer. This text gave me pause, to ask myself what is it that I believe I have and what is it that I regularly offer? It isn’t to say that offering Jesus means we don’t give generously, but rather in offering Jesus we may be called to give more generously than we think we can. In offering Jesus we will almost always be summoned to give more than words; but prayer, love, attention, at times material things and money. But most of all, the issues we see must be seen in light of the one great need, which is to be reconciled to the God who loves and pursues us in Christ.
We all offer what we have. The question is whether or not we see Jesus as our greatest offering to those around us.