This summer I have had the opportunity to gather with a few other ladies at the home of a mutual friend one day a week. We gather for the purpose of studying the Bible–specifically the book of Esther. I admit that I have not always been faithful at getting the weekly homework done. I kind of amazes me, when I think about it, how I always have time for earning points on a favorite Facebook game. I always seem to have time to watch my favorite television shows on Food Network and Lifetime TV. But getting my Bible study homework done? Strange how some times that is left to the day before we meet. Still, even though I often get upset with myself over this, I have learned so much from the weeks spent listening to discussion and watching the videos. You know how sometimes, even though you have read or seen a thing several times before, on a certain day at a certain point in life, that same concept will leap off its source and hit you between the eyes? That was my experience this morning. Good thing I didn’t have my glasses on–it was a pretty hard hit.
The book of Esther is a short book in the Old Testament. It follows the book of Nehemiah even though the events of Esther happened before Nehemiah’s recorded events. Esther is a unique book in the Bible for it never mentions the name of God. It is obvious that God’s hand is all over the events of the book, but His name is never mentioned. Esther was put in a difficult situation, being a Jewish young woman who was made queen by a self absorbed and out of touch king. The author of the study referred to him as King Headache. It fit. The book records the attempt of one man, who happened to be the king’s right hand man, to annihilate the Jews. The Jews are God’s chosen people. It should not surprise us that satan wants them destroyed. Most people think of Hitler and his Holocaust when they think of Jewish annihilation, and while that is certainly a piece of history that most are familiar with, the attempted destruction of the Jews go back much farther than the events of the 1940’s. As a side note–if you don’t know much about God’s feelings toward the Jewish people, I’ll let you in on something that He makes quite clear. Nothing will EVER eradicate the Jews from existence. Nothing. God has promised to protect that people even though they, as a whole, rejected His Son. Enough said there or this post will get completely off topic.
Back to my study of Esther and what hit me so hard this morning.
Once the plot to kill the Jews was exposed and the offending parties put to death, including the king’s right hand man, the man put in charge under the king was a man named Mordecai. He was Esther’s uncle and had raised her from a young child. He made a declaration that said all Jews should celebrate the days that the slaughter of their enemies took place. Modern day Jews still observe this holiday called Purim. In his decree, he wrote to them to “observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” (Esther 9:22) As the author of the study began to unpack this verse, she related a personal story of a time when she and her husband had traveled to a village in Africa where they had helped set up an organization that fed the poor. As it turned out, that organization needed some help to reach more of the village residents. Their visit was successful in that they were able to bring the resources necessary to help more of the poor. Before their departure, the village residents gave them a gift. This gift was a wooden bowl full of eggs–eggs that the villagers desperately needed, yet they were so excited to bless those who had come to help. They blessed out of their poverty. The author states the following in the study guide: “I knew I was poor in my giving. Poor in my sacrificing. Poor in my daily expression of God’s giving heart and woefully rich in all things self…There before my eyes, the rich became poor and the poor became rich.” (Beth Moore, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman; p.212)
As my brain processed those words, I began to think about my own life.
- I have never gone hungry. In fact, more than once I have overindulged on food and even thrown food away.
- I have never slept on the street.
- I have always had warm clothes in winter.
- I have always had a hot shower every morning.
- I have always had a bed with clean sheets and fluffy pillows to sleep in. (Ok, there was a period of several months where we did not have a bed. We slept on the floor until a friend took pity on us since I was pregnant and gave us the mattress off of their sleeper sofa. Still, the floor was in an apartment where I at least had shelter.)
I could go on and on with all the things I have had that I take for granted. I have often referred to our family as poor. In reality, I don’t think I really know what poor looks like. When I say we are poor, it means that we aren’t able to have things other people we know have–a nice house with a yard and a swimming pool, a cabin to escape to on the weekends, a boat, money to buy the finer foods in the grocery store, clothes from the nicer stores in the mall instead of Kohls, the means to buy our kids cars like so many of those we know have done, etc… As I allow myself to wallow in these American middle class “necessities” that we don’t have, right now in many countries around the world and right here in my own country and state, there are children who do not know if they will eat today. As I look at my closet trying to figure out what to wear today, there are children who do not have that choice. They have one shirt and while it may desperately need laundering, there is no money for laundry soap and no mom around to wash it because she is out working three jobs to try to provide. While I grab the vacuum cleaner and grumble because “I just vacuumed yesterday and the pet hair is still everywhere”, there are families who are wondering if they will have a safe place to sleep tonight. I could go on as I’m sure you could as well.
I am poor, but not in the way most people think of when they hear the term. I am not poor materially even though society tries to tell me I am. I am poor, though, by God’s standards.
I am poor in giving.
I am poor in sacrificing.
I am poor in loving the least of these.
Proverbs tells us, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” (Proverbs 19:17)
I am rich in self. I have bought into the lie that I need to have what others have in order to be happy. I have bought into the lie that just one more pair of shoes then I will have all I need. I have bought into the lie that I deserve to have things to make me happy. I have bought into the lie that there are actually things on earth that can make me happy. All of these are lies. Jesus said, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)
Where are my treasures? I’m going to put some ice on the bruise between my eyes and ponder that question.