by Dixie Bowman
Sentry Magazine, September 2002
The Scriptures abound with acts of kindness, humility, and love. As always, Jesus is our best example. When He washed the disciples' feet (John 13:4-17), it first appears as an act of kindness, which, although kind, was intended as a lesson on humility and servitude. "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (John 13:15).
In Luke 10:29, Jesus was asked the question, "And who is my neighbor?" He answers the question by telling a story about a man who was traveling, fell among thieves, and left for dead. Three different travelers came by the same road. The last one, a Samaritan, had compassion on the injured man and took steps to care for him (Luke 10:30-35). When He finished the story, Jesus asks, "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, as neighbour to him that fell among thieves?" (Luke 10:36). "And he said, 'He that showed mercy on him.' Jesus said, 'Go and do thou likewise'" (Luke 10:37).
In Mark the fourteenth chapter, we have the account of the woman who poured a precious ointment over the head of Jesus. Some of those present harshly criticized the woman, saying it was a waste. Jesus remarked, "Let her alone; why trouble ye her' She hath wrought a good work on me" (Mark 14:6). He concludes in Mark 14:8, "She hath done what she could."
There was a time when I didn't understand what the life of a Christain consisted of. Through time, I have learned that it is a step by step process of study, understanding, and making an application.
When my husband and I first began attending services in the Lord's church, I became very ill and had to be hospitalized. It was natural that my absence was noticed. My husband explained what had happened and was immediately showered with offers of help in various ways. Not knowing the Scriptures, my husband kindly declined the offers and said he was managing alright. We had not yet learned that God's children needed to "Let their light so shine that they might see your good works and glorify their Father which is in Heaven" (Matthew 15:16). Nor had we ever "As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially those of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
I was soon visited by some of the women of that Southern California congregation, whom I scarcely knew. They came bearing gifts of fresh yellow daffodils, cards of encouragement, and warm smiles of affection and concern. I wept tears of joy at their love and tears of sadness soon followed, as I missed our children terribly.
When I was dismissed from the hospital and returned home, I don't remember whether the house was straight, or the laundry was done, but I do remember some of the members of the Lord's church brought enough food to last for weeks. As we sat down together that evening to eat our meal, we joined hands and gave thanks not only for the delicious food but the overwhelming outpowering of love we as yet did not comprehend. It was the first time we ever prayed as a family. Although the food was simple physical sustenance, we commented that it was like food from Heaven.
It wasn't long before we were attending services regularly, and involving ourselves in home Bible studies as well. My husband and I were baptized into Jesus Christ that summer and have since grown to understand the importance of doing for others is to the growth of a Christian, both as a giver and as a recipient. Although it has been thirty years, we have never forgotten this expression of Christian love.
I have learned so much from my Christian sisters. One, in particular, I would like to mention. I wish she knew what her simple act of selflessness has meant to me, but God knows, and that's what really matters.
Vera was not a young woman when I came to know her. She suffered from painful crippling arthritis, was a diabetic, and had a serious heart condition. She and her gallant husband, Jim, had cared for his mother until the day she died. Then her own mother, well into her nineties, came to live with them. At night, Vera and her mother slept in the same bedroom. The older of the two women slept very little, therefore Vera didn't get much rest. Jim slept by himself so that he would have the strength to help the two women throughout the day.
Occasionally I had the opportunity to stay with Vera's mother in order that she and Jim could attend services on Sunday night. It was on one of these occasions that I mentioned to Vera that several of the women were getting food together for a family in need She looked at me with those dark brown eyes, that seemed to penetrate my very soul, and said, "Oh let me." I immediately thought of the words of Isaiah, "And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I send me" (Isaiah 6:8). Those very words seemed to come from her lips. Little Vera, stricken with infirmities of the flesh, but certainly not of the Spirit.
Paul, by inspiration, taught in I Timothy 2:9-10 that women should adorn themselves with good works. A widow who was truly a widow in need and desolate was required to be reported of for good works (I Timothy 5:10). But good works are needful from all who profess Christ. From Titus 3:8 we learn that if we constantly affirm that we believe in God then we should be careful to maintain good works. It is far more important to be rich in good works than to trust in riches (I Timothy 6:17-18). Paul wrote in Titus 2:7 that the young men should show a pattern of good works. Titus 2: I 4 teaches that in order to be redeemed and purified to Christ we must first become a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Good works are many things. They are small things and big things done in the name of the Lord. God doesn't measure our works, but our hearts. Vera couldn't do much, but she did all that she could. We can't do everything in every situation, but we are capable of so much more. We shouldn't allow a day to pass that we haven't done at least one thing for someone else. Jesus never once considered himself. While we will never reach that level of perfection, we need to remember the words of Paul, in that we should consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
Edward Everett Hale once said:
"I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
God, help us to overcome our weaknesses, whatever they may be, and make them our strengths instead. In Jesus' name, Amen.