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.