This summer a family friend gave us the use of a huge luxury penthouse apartment on a Mexican beach so we could celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with almost the whole family. It was fabulous! Five bedrooms and six bathrooms were more than enough for all our families! How we enjoyed our weeks together there!
A Brazilian Example of Sharing
This experience reminded me of the sign in a small shed behind our simple wooden house on the Brazilian missions centre where we lived for two decades. The shed sheltered some miscellaneous tools and odd bits of equipment. The sign said, “You Don’t Have to Own It to Enjoy It”
None of our twenty or so neighbours on the missions centre had a sign like that, but we all lived by that philosophy. We borrowed each other’s tools freely. Jo & I owned well over a thousand books, but at any one time, one-third of them stood on other people’s bookshelves or lay on their bedside stands. One neighbor had an extra long ladder; everyone used it when he needed to climb a roof. Two or three lawnmowers were enough for several dozen lawns. Some people owned vehicles; the rest of us borrowed them, reimbursing the owner for the fuel used. When missionaries left for a year’s furlough, others used their house and everything in it.
God Wants Us to Share Our Stuff With Others
Holding things loosely and freely sharing material things with those in need is a basic biblical way of life. The apostle Paul reminds his readers that all material things ultimately come from God, “who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” We are to “do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” 1 Timothy 6:18-19.
God Himself is our example in freely giving us things we don’t need to own to enjoy. We don’t own the earth with its fabulous mountain scenery, its relaxing sandy beaches, and its vast expanse of forests. Warm sunshine, life-giving rain, and fresh breezes: we enjoy them all without owning any of them. God’s greatest Gift, of course, was of His own Son, Jesus, who came to show us how to live, then died and rose again to empower us to live God’s way.
What the Canelas Taught Us About Sharing
When the Canela people started reading the Bible we translated into their language, they learned a whole new way of life. But when it came to generously sharing material things, we Christians could have learned from them! They knew all about sharing long before they learned about it in the Bible. Sharing is so much a part of Canela culture; it is even reflected in the language.
A linguistic marker attaches to every noun that indicates if the thing is shareable or not. Things like basket, knife, and cloth are all shareable, held loosely by one person. These nouns have markers meaning “my/your/his shareable possession.” They can be given away or loaned out.
On the other hand, body parts such as eye, hand, and skin, and kinship relationships like child, mother, and father are not shareable. These nouns have linguistic markers meaning “mine/yours/his own specific possession.”
We can learn from the Canela. Their word for “Bible book” has a shareable marker. Their Bible is to be shared, not kept as their own specific possession. Worldwide, the Bible has for many generations been shared through translation with people of all the major language groups. And now, with vast amounts of linguistic know how and translation experience more readily available on line to translators anywhere in the world, even the smaller language groups are beginning to receive God’s Word in their own language.
The Real Reason God Blesses His People
We often pray variations of David’s prayer in Psalm 67, “May God be gracious to us and bless us. . .” It is good to ask for God’s blessing.
But we should not forget about the rest of that passage. “. . . so that Your ways may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. . . . God will bless us, and (as a result) all the ends of the earth will fear Him.”
The whole point of God giving us health and wealth is so that we will share it to bring His life giving Word to a dying world so they too can learn to know Him and His salvation.
We enjoy salvation from the penalty and power of sin. Our saving relationship with Jesus has a shareable marker. It’s not our specific possession to own, but ours to enjoy, and to share with others.
What are you doing with the spiritual life, your physical health and material wealth God has given you?
How are you sharing these with a needy world?