Her birthday is October 27th, 14 days after mine. Like me, she has brown hair, eyes, and skin. She’s good at dancing, speaks Spanish, loves art, and loves playing with dolls. Who is she? Her name is Jasme Anyara Arancibia Cisterna; the eight-year-old Chilean girl whom I’m sponsoring. And like me, her father left her.
To be honest, I kind of suckered into it all. I was walking down 13th and saw two college-aged girls with clipboards talking to random people who happened to pass by. Immediately I pulled out my phone and checked Facebook, Twitter, and my email. I’ve been here for four years plus some; I know how to avoid the activists.
But one girl was smart and read right through my pathetic attempt at ignoring her.
“Sooo are you texting me? I’m right here in front of you!” she said and stepped in my way. As soon as I acknowledged that she was talking to me, I was done. There was no turning around, no making up excuses, no option left for me. She asked me where I was going, what I was doing with my life, and some other small-talk stuff. And then she asked me to sponsor a child, plain and simple. And before I knew it, I was walking away with a receipt for the account I had just set up.
Shortly after that casual disruption, I kind of felt played. I mean, that girl ought to be a politician because she was just good at persuading people – especially the simple-minded like myself. And throughout the days since that one, I’ve been wondering if it was a good decision, wondering if I might regret spending only $22 a month on some child in Chile. And then I got a photo of her in the mail, along with a bio sheet. Seeing the face of whose life I’m now changing at $22 a month changed my mindset about the whole thing.
American society typically encourages us to hoard up our own money. It’s probably seen through implied messages, but it’s there. If you ask the average person what the phrase “American Dream” means, they’ll probably tell you that it’s closely associated with success, which is usually dependent upon financial wellbeing. Society generally indicates that if you make a lot of money, you’re doing alright. But when it comes to Jesus and His ways and what He asks us to do, it seems to be quite opposite.
We’re supposed to be generous with our finances and help our neighbors both near and far. Ever since I’ve had a job I’ve been a little careless with managing it all. It’s not like I bought a new car, but it’s more like I’ll get the new book here, a new pair of shoes there, and maybe eat out several times in a week. And then I show up to church, hear Danny O’Neil teach about the importance of helping others out, and feel convicted over how selfish I’ve been; how I’ve been thinking of what I want and need before what someone else might want or need.
Someone like Jasme.
Money is associated with power and success here in America. But God looks at money and laughs. He doesn’t laugh at what money is; He laughs at how we cling to it, treat it like it’s our everything. He laughs at how worked up and worried we get over money, especially when we don’t have it. I say “He laughs” because when Jesus’ disciples questioned Him about a certain tax they were supposed to pay, they seemed slightly concerned – worried even. When Jesus told them to pluck what they needed from a fish, I don’t think He was doing so merely to ease their worries; I think He was proving a point.
Money isn’t everything. It’s not even close.
But pretty much for anyone living in the world nowadays, we need money to live. It helps pay for rent (shelter), food, gas, car insurance, etc., etc. In no way, though, is money our only purpose in life. As Jesus highlights, it’s a mere tool we can use to glorify Him, to reflect His caring, generous nature.
It was only about two and a half months ago when I was worried about money. I didn’t have a job, so I was more susceptible to worry than with a job. But even so, I wouldn’t go anywhere because I was too worried about how expensive gas was or if my car broke down. I forgot Jesus plucks money from fish.
No, we aren’t supposed to take all our money and just give it away carelessly. God wants us to be wise with what we’re given, as seen in the parable of the talents. But that’s just it; He wants us to do something with it, not ignore Him by hiding behind our cell phones, computers, and other excuses as I was the day I signed up to sponsor Jasme. I don’t think God likes nagging us to give up a little of what He’s given us in the first place. And yeah, tithing is a start, but really, I think God wants us to cheerfully and consciously give; I think God wants us to give with a purpose, to know what we’re giving and why we’re giving.
And, as I’ve found within the last couple days, giving with this mindset leaves no room for worry.