James Hewitt tells a story about “A woman [who] was out shopping one day and decided to stop for a cup of coffee. She bought a bag of cookies, put them into her purse, and then entered a coffee shop. All the tables were filled, except for one at which a man sat reading a newspaper. Seating herself in the opposite chair, she opened her purse, took out a magazine, and began reading.
“After a while, she looked up and reached for a cookie, only to see the man across from her also taking a cookie. She glared at him; he just smiled at her, and she resumed her reading.
“Moments later she reached for another cookie, just as the man also took one. Now feeling quite angry, she stared at the one remaining cookie – whereupon the man reached over, broke the cookie in half and offered her a piece. She grabbed it and stuffed it in her mouth as the man smiled at her again, rose, and left.
“The woman was really steaming as she angrily opened her purse, her coffee break now ruined, and put her magazine away. And there was her bag of cookies, unopened. All along she’d unknowingly been helping herself to the cookies belonging to the man she had shared the table with.”
Sometimes, I’ll just bet we’re like that woman at the table. We’re enjoying the abundance of the Lord, enjoying the sharing of the Lord – all the while thinking it’s our plate of cookies.
There’s a remedy for those moments of wrong thinking as we grab for the cookies. Joshua 24.13-15 gives us insight into the remedy that will help us think a little better, and maybe live a little better.
Perhaps we know Joshua 24.14-15. We’re might be familiar with one portion that passage: “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve....But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” I’ve heard those words said by many folks, and I've even seen little signs or pictures in peoples’ homes that show those very words as a reminder to choose God everyday.
But we may not be so familiar with Joshua 24.13. Without Joshua 24.13, the full challenge of the passage is really hard for us see: “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”
We don't have anything that wasn't given to us. Not a thing. Top to bottom, inside and out – head, heart, and breath – we come from God. Homes to hobbies, cars to kids, what we have comes from God. Truth is, God gave us everything.
We hear it at the beginning of Psalm 24.1-2: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.” Hard to miss that phrase, isn’t it: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything (not some things, everything) in it.”
I try to remind myself of this truth, especially when things go wrong. “You know, Lord, this is your car, and it would be great if you’d make it work...today, if possible.” You can insert your own things-go-wrong into that sentence: air-conditioners, toilets, tractors, lawnmowers, computers, kids or spouses.
It’s a comic reminder, but the point remains the same. This life we enjoy is a gift of God. From first breath to last gasp, we come from God, every bit of our lives.
Ultimately, we are reminded of the gift of Jesus Christ. As Paul S. Rees observes, “Stewardship is not leaving a tip on God’s tablecloth; it is the confession of an unpayable debt at God’s Calvary.”
I once heard that we make a living by what we get out of life, but we make a life by what we give. Let us choose this day whom we will serve by reminding ourselves of the truth of Joshua 24.13. God gave us everything.
Let’s be a little more like the man at the table. Let’s be willing to give; let’s be willing to share. That day, that harried woman learned much about giving. Let us lead in that same way, by giving. Let us make a life by what we give.
Let us choose this day whom we will serve by how we live, by how we give, by how we love. Let us do it every day as a reminder of who and whose we are.