Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Sin That Feeds Me

What do Kool Aid, peanut butter, and M&Ms have in common?

As I shared with a group of missionary women last Saturday, I have been rereading a book called Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges. With Easter just around the corner, I have been examining my own heart and dealing with some resistant sin issues that are lurking there.

One of my pet sins came to light when I went to answer this missionary ethics question posed by a friend overseas:

A sweet and valuable short-term helper who is due to return to the U.S. in just a couple of weeks asked if I had any Crystal Light she could add to her water. I told her that I had none to spare, but was I wrong to not share with her? All I have is a private stash I’ve been rationing to last until my next trip to the States.

My initial reaction is, “Mercy, no! I’m sure if you explained your plight to your visitor, she certainly would have understood.” However, in light of the book I have been reading, I think I must change my answer to choice #2. Yes, by all means you should be generous and share your limited supply with your short-term helper.

Before y’all shoot me down, let me say that I have been in this position many times myself. Usually I respond selfishly, like answer #1, feeling fully justified. Then again sometimes I have had no choice but to share, but honestly I don’t always feel very gracious about it.

When my two oldest sons were still in high chairs, my sister came to visit with her two children. She asked what she might bring us, and I begged for some American peanut butter. All we had available in Guatemala was a local brand called “Gato Gordo” (Fat Cat) which was expensive and not very tasty. I had plans of hoarding that one jar of peanut butter to last a good long while.

However it turned out that my niece and nephew were picky eaters (and who could blame them, being in a foreign country with a weird aunt who only cooked from scratch). Each time they turned their noses up at my meals, my sister would jump up and quickly offer them a peanut butter sandwich. “No problem,” she would say; but each time I would just about cry, watching our precious new jar being consumed in one short week.

Selfishly I hid away the package of M&Ms she brought, figuring her children could have all they wanted in another week when they went home. But even worse, I hid them from my own sons, figuring they didn’t need to be introduced to American candy anyway. They were just little guys after all; they’d never be the wiser.

After further contemplation, I think we’d have to agree that selfishness in any form is a sin. Making up new rules to compensate for being poor deprived missionaries doesn’t quite add up to what Scripture clearly teaches us. I think I owe an apology to a friend or two.

The truth is that I have seen God multiply things like vitamins when my supply was dwindling. Without a doubt I know that He can stretch or replenish our stockpile of Crystal Light and Jif— if and when we are generous to people who ask.

IRL* Kool Aid, peanut butter, and M&Ms all bring out the miserly side of missionaries.


  1. Jamie Jo, this is a terrific post! Honest, relevant, right where I am. Thank you. I can not even begin to tell you the struggle I have had with hoarding overseas. I so get this post 10 fold! ---my hoarding was (but not limited to) refried beans and other Mexican food items!--- and THEN we were deported! and I left an entire cupboard full of refried beans, taco season packets, etc to go to waste in my tiny, isolated cupboard in Central Asia. That was a major wake up call. Use it, enjoy it, and share it out---is my motto now. Because you don't really know if you will be there tomorrow to enjoy it or share it.
    "Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God." Ecc. 5:19

    1. That's weird. My comment disappeared. Anyway, I was just saying it was good to hear your perspective.

  2. I can totally understand, and have mixed feelings myself about this, but yes, generosity is always our highest goal. It's so hard to share, though, when the person you're sharing with doesn't even realize how valuable it is to you. As in the case of Jamie Jo's peanut butter...

    I've also been the recipient of many people who have shared their "treasures" with me, and it is always very special to me. May the Lord give us all generous spirits!

    1. I have mixed feelings, too - believe me! In fact I have a secret stash of something I would never dare admit for fear someone might ask for it! Call me a hypocrite, but sometimes it boils down to not advertising your treasures if you don't have enough to go around.

  3. This post made me laugh - because I so identified with it! I remember when my in-laws came to visit and brought us Oreo cookies. Before I knew it, they had eaten the whole package. Of course, I soon realized this was comfort food for them. They just didn't realize I needed some comfort too!

    I've learned it is best to be generous. Once when we faced an unexpected move, I think we ate muffins and tacos everyday for a week so we didn't have to pack the stash! So, I've learned to share my treasures. Though you may still find a little stash of peanut butter way back in my almost unreachable cabinet.....

    1. Here I figured I would get a back-lash of angry responses from friends with their feet stomped on. I'm so relieved y'all are taking this in the spirit it was intended.

  4. Thanks for a great perspective JJ. Yep, I guess I have to confess to a little selfishness too, only in my case it's school supplies that I cannot get in country. I'm often hesitant to lend them out because they don't come back in good condition (without any missing bits), and since buying teaching aids in Australia is way more expensive than buying in the US they are pretty precious. Hmmm. Maybe I need an attitude makeover?

    1. Lending is another aspect of this thing. School supplies are another sore subject for many. Right now I am out of loose-leaf notebook paper, and I would love to mooch off someone who planned better than I did. However usually I am the lender not the borrower.

      I have to say -in general- that God has blessed whenever we have freely given. Literally for every car we have given away, we have gotten one in return.

      Sometimes it comes down to a stewardship issue, not necessarily on requiring that we give instead of sell, or lend instead of rent. Don't you think? Maybe someone else can chime in on this one.

      Whenever we look for greed, selfishness, or other vices, we don't always find it. Please be kind to yourselves, dear ladies. There is no condemnation here!

    2. Isn't it funny. We, together as a group, could come up with a pretty long list of precious things that would seem very, very strange to anyone NOT in this line of work!! :) Mine might include: Scrapbooking stickers, good pens, pencil top erasers, canned diced green chillies, coffee, pudding mix, lawry's garlic salt, and ranch dressing packets... just to name a few. Show that list to anyone who doesn't live overseas and they would definitely think I am loopy!

    3. Ah yes, the scrapbooking stickers. After years of not touching them, but carefully hoarding nonetheless, I have finally allowed the dc (dear children) to use some of them.

      I'd love to see the list of things other people carry with them on the plane, or things you ask teams to bring you.

  5. Chocolate chips and brown sugar! Molasses! Campbells Tomato Soup! Certain candies! Sugarless gum.

    Not only am I a natural hoarder, but I've been trained in the art! Mom always had a stash of things hidden in her closet. Only the family knew about them and they were not to be mentioned or offered when guests came. (This was an unwritten/unspoken rule. We all just knew that if we offered them, we would not have them later.) I do the same. Things I do not want to share, get hidden in my room rather than the pantry. The kids know where they are when we need them, but we just don't mention them to "others." Also, when people bring gifts like those from the States, as I unpack them and thank them, I take those items to their secret locations and hide them during the confusion of greetings and present giving. Out of sight, Out of mind!

    I have learned to share, some. =)

    One funny, teach me to share moment was when I asked a team to bring some Campbells Tomato Soup, envisioning a couple of cans. They brought me three flats of cans! I still have almost two flats left and I find myself being very generous with those! Also, my husband has developed an allergy to both gluten and corn. I went through my cupboard this week and cleaned out all the packets and mixes I had been hoarding and had to give them all away, as we can no longer use them. Shoot! Should have used them before!

    One of our main ministries is a personal lending library. I gave all the books to God before we came and have had a pretty good attitude about lending them out, but my son has certain books that are HIS and I am NOT allowed to lend them at all! =)

    Ah, the sins of the mothers . . . . =)


  6. Oh, dear. The things we have taught our children without ever thinking about them!

    Your Campbell's soup story reminds me of a few times I've asked teams to bring something, and the same thing happened. Generally by not specifying quantities, we can count on a 5 lb. bag of M&Ms if we ask.

    I'll never forget the time a visitor from the U.S. handed each of my children ONE tiny little Halloween size packet of M&M's. They were dumbfounded and totally bummed. No time to ration that tiny supply. :)

  7. I love it! My husband and I kept all the imported Oreo's to ourselves for years, because our kids liked Russian cookies just fine. Now, though, they're old enough to enjoy American treats. I have more problems sharing with nationals, who enjoy the taste but don't have any emotional connection. Especially when the supplies dwindle while they are house-sitting for us!

    Many times,in many ways, I have had to learn not to worship my stomach (or taste-buds) as a god. This applies to expensive items, as well. I only offer coffee if we have a small number of guests, because it is a luxury item.

    Is that selfish, or just wise stewardship. I suppose the difference is not in the offering, but in the heart response if someone ends up asking for (or taking) the coveted item. And then I just have to read the Sermon on the Mount a few times, and maybe I Peter thrown in for some eternal perspective!

    1. The eternal perspective does help. I've been reading Heaven, by Randy Alcorn, this week. Thinking about heaven is a cure for most of my petty sins and complaints. Nothing much matters in light of eternity except Jesus!

      All our silly gods are ridiculous in comparison.

  8. btw, I love your cluster map. I think it's the best one in the blogosphere!

    1. Thanks to all my reader friends who make my map so cool!!!

      (Now if we can just find some friends in Northern Africa and those other non-red spots....)


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