Bananas, Beans and Chinese Handcuffs

A few days ago, I had the privilege to spend the day visiting house churches in the mountains of El Salvador near Tepecoyo. At one of the homes, I met a handsome young man of about nine years his name was Juan (not really). His family’s house had a no flooring and they cooked over an open fire in an outdoor kitchen. They had very little physical possessions. Yet I do not think of them as poor. They were rich.

They graciously gathered some chairs and invited our group to sit and talk with them. And we did. We talked about our families. They shared that most of the adults and older children where at higher elevations harvesting coffee. I showed them pictures of my family. We also talked about snow. They dreamed of one day seeing snow. It had recently snowed at my home so I showed them pictures. They loved it. Like at each of the other homes on our itinerary, when our time was up, we prayed and said our good-byes.

They loved the God they worshipped.

I had been invited to speak that night. After visiting in the homes earlier, I found myself questioning what I had prepared. So I found a place by myself to pray and meditate on what God would have me say. But I was soon interrupted by some of my new friends. One of them was Juan another was Samuel (not his real name either). They both had gifts for me. Juan brought a bunch of bananas. Samuel shared beans that they had recently harvested.

Their generosity overwhelmed me. Throughout the day, I had buried my feelings not wanting to seem shocked at the conditions in which these families lived. But I could not hide my surprise that these boys would bring me such valuable gifts. Their families had so little, but they gave generously.

Poverty is not the quantity of your possessions, but rather poverty is when possessions own you.

I was excited to experience worship. Even though it was getting dark, families came. Grandparents, parents and children navigated the narrow trails of the mountain to worship their God together. The worship was nothing like what we think about here in the states. They sang and clapped. Joyfully. Loudly. I couldn’t understand what they were singing. However, I am confident they loved the God they worshipped. I can only trust that God used what I had to say to bless them in some way. After all, I didn’t get that chance to meditate and pray like I had hoped.

After this experience, I believe I understand in a better way what Jesus means when He says, “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God,” and “you cannot serve two masters, you will love the one and hate the other…you cannot serve both God and money.”

Being rich has nothing to do with the amount of possessions you have, but whether or not your possessions, great or small, have you.

Do you remember the Chinese handcuffs? You put your fingers in and when you tried to pull them out, the handcuff’s grip tightened. The harder you pulled the tighter grip they had. But when you released the pressure, they would loosen up and you could withdraw your finger.

Possessions are like Chinese handcuffs. Either you hold them loosely or they will tighten their grip on you. The more possessions you have the greater the temptation to tighten your grip. As the desire to hold them tighter matures, you no longer own your possessions; they own you.

Only the rich can be generous. My new Salvadorian friends had few possessions, but they were rich. I know people who have many possessions but are poor. Poverty is not the quantity of your possessions, but rather poverty is when possessions own you.

Their generosity overwhelmed me.

Like the widow in Jesus day who gave her last two cents, being rich is the freedom to love God and others without the weight of your possessions constricting you. God’s kingdom turns the world’s values upside down. Being rich has nothing to do with the amount of possessions you have, but whether or not your possessions, great or small, have you.

 

 

 

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