At my yearly physical with my doctor, I told him how I had been running more and more over the past year. He encouraged me to train even harder and lengthen my runs to the point of a half marathon (13.1 miles). With his great advice, I jumped at the chance. However, the additional advice he gave me that I didn’t heed might have been the more important: stay hydrated.
For some odd reason, I chose to run on one of the hottest days of the year for my long weekly run (while on my beach vacation, which only made the sun even worse). I’d chosen to run on the main running strip of the island, along with a good number of other runners as I find that running with others brings about encouragement and competition. Yet, halfway through my recently increased distance run, I found that I was quickly losing steam because of the 90-degree heat and relentless sunshine. I’d forgotten his advice, and since this distance was new to me, I was unfamiliar with the toll it would take. Far from home and penniless (who brings a wallet when they run?), I was destitute, parched, and not sure I was making it home in one piece. Suddenly, like an oasis in the desert, I came across a huge cooler of bottled waters with a sign: Help Yourself. Apparently, one family on the island puts out a large cooler of free water for the runners daily. I grabbed one, hydrated, and spiritedly made it home all thanks to this family.
Part of it was the much-needed water at the right time, but more so, it was the completely selfless, unprompted giving from this household that gave me the encouragement to push forward. That this house put out water for those in need was enough encouragement to push me all the way home. They will never know the encouragement that they were to me, which makes their witness and actions even more powerful. Weeks later, their actions still resonate with me, and probably will for some time. But what about that offer of water to a thirsty runner had such an impact? It seems so simple a gesture, but when broken down, it shows the depth of that act.
It was faceless – Matthew 6 details the ways in which we as Christians should give to the poor. Of the many points Christ makes in his Sermon on the Mount, the first is in verse 2: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.” When we give, we usually like to get credit for our efforts. If we don’t see the smiling faces and hear the thanks, we don’t feel fulfilled. However, when those actions occur, the impact of the giving is lessened. That day, no one was standing near the water, no one was handing it out to us, no one was waving us onward. The water was merely there, and there was no one to thank. As a result, my reaction is not about how great that person or family is, but is instead about how inspirational that act is, with God’s face taking the place of the family’s.
It was unprompted – Christ continues in his instruction in verses 3-4 by discussing what should motivate a person to give: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Not only should giving be faceless, but it should also not be prompted by anything. One hand does not indicate to the other to give. It gives because it can, like the people in the house. None of us were shouting on the streets about how we needed water. No one had passed out in front of their house. They just took it upon themselves to give where there might be a need.
It was selfless – As indicated in past devotionals, when we give, we should not expect anything in return. This house could have easily put a donation bucket next to the water, suggesting that we should “pay it forward” to upcoming runners, with our money being used to buy future provisions. However, nothing of the sort existed and not a thing was expected in return for their generosity.
If we want our giving to have an impact, we need to remember these three tenets when we give: be faceless, unprompted, and selfless. It sounds easy, but it’s much harder than we think, as we enjoy the returns on our efforts. However, with Godly recognition that comes through prayer and meditation, we can have our need for acknowledgement met, knowing that our giving is much stronger this way and our witness that much more powerful. When you give, and you feel the need to be recognized, ask God to fulfill that need for you so that your impact can reach its full potential. Amen.