The Lord has been teaching me some wonderful lessons these past several weeks. I’ve been reminded of the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira.
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (Acts 5:1-5)
It’s been quite wonderful to be in the school of the Lord. I can’t say I’ve passed every test with flying colors. In fact, I think I might have only got a C or D on most of the tests. And His pop quizzes have always caught me by surprise. And I’m certainly grateful I didn’t kick the bucket like Ananias and Sapphira.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost…(Acts 5:10)
But the lessons learned have been life changing and eternal. I’m so grateful.
I’ve always been good about paying tithing, and even have been generous with my fast offerings. But there have been several times I’ve been confronted with the choice to give to someone in need who has asked for help – beggars on street corners, strangers in parking lots, and others who have come out of nowhere.
So anyway this one day, I had $24 in my wallet (4 ones, and a twenty dollar bill). I was driving and came to an intersection where a beggar had an “I will work for food” franchise. Usually I can pass without a single twinge of guilt, but this particular day the spirit prompted me give him some money. I pulled out my wallet and thumbed through the money in it and thought to myself, “I’ll give him a buck or two.” As I went to grab that, right at the last second I thought, “What the heck, be generous.” So I grabbed all of the one dollar bills and handed them to the guy.
As I drove away, I felt I had done a good thing, and I was giving myself a pat on the back. The spirit kind of patted me on the back too with a, “Good job.” But wasn’t finished speaking to me. Then the spirit said, “What about the twenty?” In that instant I felt an inch high. I had kept that back for myself.
My first thought was ONLY to give one or two, I gave him four, but the spirit taught me I could have given all and held nothing back.
So here’s the question I asked myself as I drove, “If that man had been the Savior would I have held back? Would I have judged that man? Or would I have given him everything I had, and more?”
I think that’s the question we always need to ask ourselves.
Lesson learned. I thought. I prayed that the next time I had the opportunity to give I wouldn’t hold anything back. I promised I’d be better. I knew the Lord would test me, and it would be sooner than later too.
And sure enough, just a couple days later I was driving home from work and about a quarter mile from the Ruthrauff turn off, I ran out of gas. If that had been the first time I’ve run out of gas I might have pulled over and stopped on the side of the freeway, but instead of stopping I put the car in neutral and coasted. I was able to coast right into the gas station on the corner, and barely made it to the pump – a tender mercy to be sure. Oh, and of course the instant I ran out of gas I started praying – it was only because of faith and prayer that I was able to coast into the gas station.
As I was filling up a middle aged lady walked up to me and showed me the inside of her wallet/purse to show me her driver’s license and ID. She wanted to prove to me she wasn’t homeless or a bum. She said that she and her daughters were stranded and hadn’t eaten in quite a while. She didn’t want money, she just wanted to know if I could help feed her daughters.
My initial thought was, “I just ran out of gas, and you’re asking me for help?” I didn’t say that, but I’m sure my face showed it. I grudgingly opened my wallet to see if I had any money in it. I reached in and found that twenty dollar bill.
Now here’s a twisted justification for you, I started thinking that had I given that twenty dollar bill to that other bum, I wouldn’t be able to help this lady. I handed her the twenty and thought I’d done a great generous thing, pat me on the back, give me a high five.
She went over and grabbed her daughters and brought them back to thank me. She was so gracious. She acted like I had given her a thousand dollars. I mean, I had to think twice, “Did I give her a twenty, or did I give her a hundred dollar bill?” That’s how much she was thanking me.
I got in the car and was humbled that I had the opportunity to help. The spirit said to me, “Good job.” I felt I had done a good thing and that twenty dollars can go a long way. But then the spirit said to me, “But did you check to see if they were warm? You could have taken them into that restaurant and bought them a meal and then given them that twenty. The Good Samaritan didn’t just give a twenty and drive away. He made sure the man was OK and taken care of. You could have made sure they were all taken care of before you drove away.”
Again, what I thought was good, wasn’t good enough, I kept something back, I could have done so much more.
I prayed with deeper humility and was grateful for the lesson, for the opportunity to give, and for the gentle kind teaching of the spirit. I committed to never leave something back and to do everything I could. “Next time.” I said to myself.
And that next time came the very next day. Since I’ve been having to drive clear across town for rehearsals, I’ve had to pretty much fill my tank every day. My car has got a built-in patience builder: the breather valve on my gas tank filler is broken. In other words it takes forever to fill my gas tank with gas. Only what the pipe to the gas tank can hold is what I can put in at a time before it backs up and squirts out all over the ground. So that’s only about 75 cents at a time, and then I wait for about 20 to 30 seconds for it to gurgle down into the tank before I can put the next 75 cents in.
It’s so frustrating and takes forever to even put in 5 dollars. So I’ve been putting in only $5 a day lately.
So anyway, I was putting my daily $5 into my tank (again) and a young homeless girl (I’ve seen her beg on the streets, she’s probably late twenties) came up to me while I was filling my tank and asked if I could give her a ride. I thought to myself, “I’m already late for work, and I just started filling my tank, it’s going to take another 5 or 10 minutes, you don’t want to wait for me.” And other such excuses. Then I remembered the lady and her daughters, so I said I would be happy to give her a ride.
She got in, “Where to?” I asked. Of course, she wanted to go in a completely different direction. I didn’t say anything, I just drove. I introduced myself and asked her name. She didn’t answer. I tried to make small talk. She was very timid.
We got over by where the old Flowing Wells Seminary building used to be and she said, “Oh, I’m so sorry, this is the wrong direction. Do you mind going the other way down that street?”
I thought to myself, “Oh, brother, this girl doesn’t even know where she’s going.” I thought I’d be helpful and so I asked, “Where in particular are you looking to go?” Thinking she’d have and address or have a destination in mind.
She answered, “A safe place…” and then with almost a surprised and excited anxiousness she said, “Do you have one?” I think she was hoping I knew of a safe place to take her. I said, “No. So which way did you want me to go?”
Her conversation was about drugs, about doing H and G and wondering if I ever did that stuff. I felt like she was hoping to get some from me. It was a weird conversation, almost as if I was speaking to a foreigner.
She asked me to drop her off at that Tire store on La Canada across the street from that Quickmart just north of Wetmore, which I’ve driven past a hundred times. And I drove away.
In that instant I felt so sorry for her and began to pray for her. And then I remembered reading about being a proxy savior, so I prayed to chase away evil spirits from her, and to bless her to find a safe place and that angels would watch over her and protect her.
I felt that my prayer was a very inspired and blessed thing. The spirit said to me, “Good job.” And then left me to my thoughts for a minute or two, and then said to me, “But you didn’t find her a safe place. You didn’t see if she was hungry. You didn’t teach her to pray, you could have asked her if she wouldn’t mind if you prayed with her. You didn’t see if she was warm. You could have done so much more for her. She didn’t need a ride, she needed to feel safe, and you just let her go out into the cold harsh world. You held back again.”
So then my prayer changed to one of sorrow for my own selfishness and weakness in giving service. Yet again I failed to give all. Again, I promised I would do better, try harder.
Then last Friday just before I came home from my business partner’s house, his wife gave me a bag full of groceries that she had cleaned out of one of her clients refrigerators before they went back to New York. It was full of some pretty good food that I don’t get very often: an unopened carton of fresh Orange Juice, a package of turkey, yogurts, fresh herbs, veggies, fruits, etc. I was happy to take it from her.
As I got to that same corner (Ruthrauff and the freeway) there was a man with a sign that said, “I’m Hungry!” I thought to myself, “I can give him some of these groceries.” I began to put some of the yogurts and veggies in the grape bag, called him over and handed him what I had filled up. I didn’t want to give him the OJ, or turkey, that looked good, I wanted that. As I drove away, the spirit told me, “Good job. But, you could have given him the entire grocery bag, after all, it wasn’t yours just ten minutes ago, but no, you held something back – again.”
I felt so bad. I wanted to turn around and give him the rest. It would have meant I would have to drive all the way back up the freeway and then back again. I was in a hurry to get home, so I didn’t. Dang. I felt bad again. When was I ever going to learn the lesson? When was I going to give all the first time and not hear the spirit tell me I could have done better?
I got home and looked through my emails. I get a daily email from “The Universe” and the “Note from the Universe” that day said this:
Talk about a guilt trip. I tell you, the lessons keep on coming. I couldn’t believe how perfectly worded and timed that was. Unbelievable.
I had given. But I hadn’t give all. That’s the lesson today friends. The Lord wants us not only to give, but to be willing to give all, everything, and not hold anything back. And I’m sorry to say that every single test I have proven I’m not willing to give all. My heart aches that this is the truth. But what a wonderful lesson. What a wonderful test to be given. The Lord is teaching me, inching me along a little bit at a time and soon (hopefully soon) I will have the faith and the willingness to be able to put it ALL in the Lords hands.
I’m a beggar. I need the blessings from heaven, more than most I suppose. And He is generous and blesses me tremendously without holding anything back. Certainly I can learn to do the same. Certainly I can have the faith and rid myself of fears and selfishness and just sacrifice for Him. Certainly I can. I will.
But for now, I’m just grateful He saw fit to bless me with these opportunities to learn where I am, and what lack I yet. I am grateful that I didn’t say, as many LDS do, “I pay fast offerings.” and left it at that. No, I’m grateful I heard the spirit and did give something. Yes, maybe I could have given all (everything), I held something back, but at least I gave something. Like the spirit told me each time, “Good job.” But I could have done better.
You know, if we want the better blessings, the better power, the better portion, the better oneness and glory – we must give all. We must be willing to give all to get all. That’s the lesson I learned. I hope you can learn from it and gain faith and testimony from it as well.
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