"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16
God taught me a lesson yesterday. It all started while I was walking around during lunch break after checking if the company had credited my bank account. There was this man sitting in front of the escalator on a chair, with his crutch lying on the ground, selling toothbrushes. Talking about this man, I have seen him a couple of times during my four months with this firm, sitting at exactly the same spot selling toothbrushes.

What that has deeply impressed upon my heart this time, is the observation of how men and women, young and old alike, shunned him and walked passed him as if he is invisible. They dodged him like an inconvenient object on the floor. I don't know about you, but it certainly made me wonder how on earth could man be so heartless. Immediately, I could not but be haunted by the thought that I am among the heartless ones, by my passivity of not helping him in the past when I could. How on earth could I ever be called by the name of our Lord's disciple when I had not once showed him any christian love? The impulse to give him some money was great, but I hold it back for another thought bloomed in my mind.

Am I now giving out of guilt? I don't profess to be a know-it-all in terms of Scriptural knowledge, but one thing I do know clearly is that the Lord desires and takes pleasure in charity. And charity is giving, not out of guilt or obligation, but out of a cheerful heart in love. If I have given him the money "for the love of God", when subtly it would be a giving to ease one guilty conscience, the giving would be in vain. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the man would not benefit from my giving, despite my motive. What I am saying is that the giver would give in vain, if it is not given in the right spirit. In fact, I struggled over these thoughts for long, before I "concluded" that I should give him, firstly out of obedience to God.

But it wasn't even a second passed, when another thought came to my mind. Am I now giving for the sake of "loving God", when I have actually no love for that man? Wouldn't that be an abomination in the eye of our Holy God? That giving would still be one of legality, something still under the Old Law of Moses, and not of Christ. I could not, but tremble before God, crying out to Him to lay upon me a burden of love for this man. And I am not talking about any good feeling to do good for those worse off than me, neither am I talking about a kind of giving that give from the top or elevated to the bottom. Rather it is a giving that stands on equal ground with that man before God, a genuine love for that man and God.

All this took me twenty good minutes before I had decided to walk up to that man and pass him the money. As I approached him, a thought came to my mind. What if that man told me that the toothbrush he was selling is going to cost me around ten bucks, when I know that the toothbrush he was selling definitely cost way much less than ten bucks? Am I willing to part with my money, especially when I had just gotten my pay after a week of poverty where I had successfully maintained a single digit in my bank account? This thought probably threw me off the ground as I just walked passed him.

Have I not let go of the world, and with it, money? It is a fact that I have stopped tithing after I came to understand that it was not commanded in the Scripture. With it, came the consequence of not having the discipline to give financially, less the few times I could recall of giving to missionaries and parents. No, if you are thinking that I am repenting of my "sin" of not tithing, you probably read it the wrong way. At no point in time, would I continue to believe that tithing is biblical, despite how preachers have preached it the wrong way.

The plain fact is that it is not. But our giving should be one of wise giving for a worthy cause. Having audited churches, I could blatantly comment that it would be better to keep the money yourselves than to give them towards some "General Fund" of the institutionalized churches. But without the old avenue of giving, I certainly need creativity in finding new avenues of giving. Afterall, I know that the giving should be given to those as such like that man. Perhaps I should learn to obey God by giving the man "my" money.

I am not too sure how many times had I walked passed that man till now. But I am going to try one more time, having been clear that I ought to give out of love and obedience. As I approached him this time round, I continued to observe how people actually avoided him as before and another thought came to my mind in a flash. Wouldn't it be strange that I actually walked up to him and pass him the money, especially when I am in office attire? Alas! I walked passed him again. How many times had this happened, that I do not know? And I just realized how the fear of man had got its grasp on me. We seriously have to fix our eyes upon God if we are serious at all about being called His children. Woe to the depraved human mind, for out of it came the thoughts that others will help the man even if I don't and that the man might have earned enough for the day. I could not but take refuge in a bookstore to ask God to deal with me.

And it was pretty amazing and miraculous again, that as I browsed through those books in the bookstore, that some titles of the books appeared to shout at me glaringly through the word "Obedience". And there was this particular title which said something like being obedient of our finances. Could it be that God was speaking to me? That, I do not doubt. As I was determined to do what God had imprinted upon my heart, I saw through the glass of the bookstore that someone else was actually communicating with the man and buying the toothbrush from him!

Someone had been there earlier when I have not been obedient to the call that was given to me. I could not, but grieved as I soberly recall the writings of Watchman Nee in which he described two types of Christians. One being wise and alert to God's voice, while the other in a slump and had the heaven's door shut on him, taken from the parable of the ten virgins. While I had no courage to break the norm and walk up to that man, God had provided for me an example to follow. May God deal with me thoroughly that I may have the boldness to carry out His works and answer to His call, without any fear of man or traditions. This I plead that God would forgive my timidity for being a difference for His sake.

As I strolled around the man after that someone had left him, I was soon surprised to find another lady talking to that man and buying toothbrush from him. The previous thought that the man might have earned enough came back alive in my mind again, but I dumped it off this time. And since I have been circling around for more than forty minutes, I deemed it best to take the escalator from the second floor so it wouldn't seem too strange for me to approach the man like out of nowhere. And this I did exactly as I thought.

And as usual, when one decided to follow God, difficulties always come with it as a test. That toothbrush-selling man actually stopped a big guy in front of me while riding down the escalator for a change of money. At this time in point, I have to make the choice to walk away or stay and wait for the transaction to finish. Seems like God just took away the effect of my tactics to lessen the embarrassment of walking up to that man when I first went up to the second floor. How narrow is the way to heaven! I could feel the eyes all over me while I stayed and waited for that man.

After he had finished changing the money, I asked him what was he selling and I soon learnt that he was having some difficulties in paying his bills for a living and had to resort to selling toothbrushes in public. Now, that certainly wasn't very difficult to open my mouth and ask, but why had I took so long to overcome this fear of man? And at once hearing him, I could feel as if I was able to identify with him, as my house had difficulties in paying our utilities alot of times and had our electricity supply cut off once. May God help us in our finances.

At the end of the day, I simply bought one toothbrush from him and guess how much it costs me? Ten bucks indeed. But one thing I have not done it well, was that I hurried off, not forgetting to give him a pat or two on his shoulders though. Perhaps, if God permits, next time I might have the opportunity to share the good news with him. But let me not trade the toothbrush for an opportunity to present the good news, lest the cross loses its mighty power, hear me in this O' God.

Looking back, it may seem a simple and rather easy task for many who read this. But let the truth be heard, I have never once pray and mediate so much, to almost fully an hour, for a simple task like giving to the person who needs it. And it certainly makes me puzzle that, not in any point in time, when we dipped our hands into the tithing or offering bags had we prayed so much and with great effort for a small task as this. Have we seriously considered our giving as something originating from the Divine? Maybe, we need a little more prayer even for the "smallest" work of God like this in giving. May we all give in the right spirit.

Probably, among others, I could be deceived by him, being the general risk of all givings. But this last thing I worry not, for God sees everything in our hearts. He alone will be the Judge. But may the giver and the receiver both be blessed, for to give is far more blessed than to receive. Amen.