Back At Ya!

Chris Bires, 41, was on his way to work.

He walked this street in downtown Chicago every day, Monday thru Friday. It was routinely uneventful.

Until that day.

When Chris spotted a man playing his saxophone on the street and the empty can next to him, he decided he’d do a good deed. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out all his coins and emptied them into the can. The bearded young saxophonist smiled at the clean-shaven executive and thanked him.

When he got to work, Chris discovered that he was missing his wedding ring. The ring fit a little loose and he had been planning to have it re-sized. He must have somehow accidently handed it over to the street musician when he gave him his money. His heart sunk. Chris raced back to where the saxophonist had been but he was gone.

As he walked back to his office, Chris wondered how he would explain this to his wife. And then he thought, “If only I hadn’t given that guy my money”. Chris ruefully sneered to himself. “I guess it’s like they say, no good deed goes unpunished.”

Weeks went by.

Then one day, walking to work, Chris was anxiously intercepted by a smiling middle-aged woman. She reached into her handbag and pulled something out. When she opened her hand to Chris, there was his lost ring.

Chris couldn’t believe it.

Bonita Franks, a panhandler, had seen Chris return that day telling someone about the man with the saxophone and his lost ring. She remembered it when she later spotted the sax player. And she took it upon herself to get the ring back, as only a street- savvy panhandler could do.

Bonita didn’t know if she’d ever see Chris Bires on that crowded city street again but she vowed to watch and when she did, she couldn’t wait to return his lost treasure. And there, on that busy Chicago street, surely surrounded by all manner of greed, apathy and selfish striving, two unlikely people hugged, brought together by their kindness and generosity.

We’ve all been tempted to feel that in this world, sooner or later, idealism gets brutally mugged; that good deeds are unrequited and, as often as not, punished. Our age breeds cynicism and contempt and the headlines blare it.

We shake our heads. “That figures. They should have known better.”

God, faith and the Bible go boldly against this rough and hardened grain. They beckon us to a higher standard, a softer heart and a more hopeful disposition.

There is an ancient Hebrew saying found in the Old Testament: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2, NIV).

What does this mean?

Give generously, with no thought to your own interests and, no matter what may happen in the meanwhile, your kindness will not go unnoticed or unrewarded. The blessing may be immediate or it may be delayed but it will never be abandoned or overlooked by a God who sees all and cares deeply.

How do we know this?

Because God will be a debtor to no one. We cannot out-give him. God is the ultimate Giver. He has given us His only Son and our greatest gift, eternal life. Daily God blesses us beyond all measure in so many ways we fail to count or recall. As the poet wrote, “he giveth and giveth and giveth again.” God is unbelievably and extravagantly generous.

He gave all this to us when we had nothing, could do nothing and were nothing.

We cannot pay God back.

This is the glory of our salvation – and its chief stumbling block for so many. We feel we must earn that which we can only accept. There can be no grace without God’s giving; nor can there be grace without our open arms and empty hands.

“In my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling”.

In a world and culture that’s all about taking and getting, everything about Christianity involves giving. As Jesus prepared to send out the disciples to perform all manner of good deeds, He reminded them:

“Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:9, NKJV). Their receiving was the basis of their giving.

So is ours.

“Give”, Jesus tells us, “and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38, NKJV).

“Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity” (Luke 6:38, The Message).

In these fractured and coarsened times how important that we remember our Savior’s teaching.

The poet Edwin Markham expressed this spiritual truth when he wrote:

“There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

Chris Bires and Bonita Franks would smile, fist-bump and say, “Back at ya!”

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