“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” James 1:17
I was just about to walk away with my trio of dogs on their leashes from the homeless woman I had crouched down for a while to talk to who sat in front of a New York City deli-bakery kind of a store, having had a wonderful opportunity to talk to her about the Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and how the Lord had transformed me from an utterly broken and hopeless woman to a woman He had just sent back to New York City after almost 25 years to bring back the message of hope of Christ when the woman made a little request.
“Do you have some clothes you can bring me?” she essentially said.
Years ago, when I had just begun ministering to the homeless, my then pastor who is now with the Lord had taught me that I needed to use wisdom. Why? Because though this is not at all true of all, many of the homeless are addicted to alcohol, to drugs, to lying, cheating, stealing, and to scams. And I am highly gullible and a sheer sucker when it comes to someone in need. Does this mean we shouldn’t love the homeless? No! That we shouldn’t help the homeless? No! That we shouldn’t share Christ and the Gospel message with the homeless? No! That we shouldn’t help the homeless with food, shelter, clothing, and other needs? No! But it does mean we should seek the Lord and use the wisdom and discernment He gives us.
I knew the woman with whom I had been speaking was a drug addict, I knew she was in a city where resources of free clothing and shelter and food are seemingly endless, and I knew she seemed anyway to have all that she needed physically. Spiritually, she already believed in Jesus and simply and more importantly than anything else she needed to make a true, sincere, and genuine commitment to live for Christ as it appeared she had never gone beyond a simple intellectual faith in Him which is quite simply not enough. True faith in Christ AS LORD manifests in a life committed to God and His ways. She had not yet done this, and I believe the Lord had sent me to encourage her to move forward in so doing.
But now we were onto another subject. Clothing. Clothing I am not sure she really needed, and, if she did, she would have had any number of different resources. I am blessed with clothes, but compared with in years past, I don’t keep a big stock of extra clothes on hand. I certainly have enough to give away, but I do tend to keep my wardrobe simple, cheap, basic, and slim on the whole. I must have said something to her about how I would go look through my clothes, or some such thing, but something pretty wild happened.
I started walking away with my dogs, when all of a sudden the Spirit of God told me something absolutely wild.
“Take off your sweatshirt and give it to her,” He essentially said.
I knew I had heard Him. Yet to the best of my recollection, He repeated Himself. He had to. Why? Because I was immediately resisting Him.
See, though it had come from a thrift shop, and had a bleach stain on it, I loved that sweatshirt. Loved the color. Loved the big bulky fit. Loved that it was lined with a big thick fleece perfect for cold weather which I hate.
All I had to do was go to my apartment and get one of the sweatshirts I didn’t like as much. But God’s Spirit had made Himself abundantly clear. I knew what I had to do.
I turned around, took off my sweatshirt, and gave it to the woman.
She was shocked. She couldn’t believe I had given her my very own sweatshirt. Especially when all I had on underneath was a tank top shirt. I assured her she should take the sweatshirt, and admittedly, it did feel good to pass it along to her.
But if you think this is a lesson about the importance of giving to the homeless, or to others in general, or some such matter, you’re wrong. For the message had not yet come.
About 5 or 10 minutes later, I realized one of my dogs had dropped the big ball she loves to carry in her mouth while she walks. I figured I’d just forget about it, as she had other stuffed balls. But I felt compelled to go back to the homeless woman beside whom she had dropped it. When I arrived, I understood why.
There, perfectly content, the woman sat bundled up in my bright green wonderfully warm sweatshirt reading my Finding the Light Gospel tract. I was so blessed to see how the Lord had used me to bring the tract into her life, which includes my personal story, but most importantly the Gospel message, and how He had used the sweatshirt to bless her. But still, this was not the message.
What then was the message?
Friend, that sweatshirt was never mine to begin with. It was, and is, the Lord’s! Oh, sure, we can say, “this is my car. That is my sweater. This is my job. That is my boat. This is my jacket. That is my house.” And, in human terms, they may well be. But at the end of the day, EVERY blessing in our lives, EVERY gift in our lives, EVERY good thing in our lives, EVERYTHING in our lives for which we can and should be thankful, is FROM THE LORD and should be used FOR THE LORD however He desires – even when it means passing it along to someone else.
I am blessed beyond measure that just under a month of having moved into New York City for this season of my life that I have now run into two different homeless women who walk around wearing sweatshirts I have given them. But now I understand the lesson the Lord taught me in all this. These sweatshirts are God’s sweatshirts, and with every single thing He blesses us with, we should be willing when He wants us to give them to others, to pass them along, not for ourselves, and to feel good, but for the glory of the Lord.
May each and every person reading this, and myself writing this, remember on a daily basis not to cling to our so-called belongings, but to cling to the Lord, to trust Him for our provision, and to be willing to let go of whatever He has placed in our hands, hearts, and homes, whenever He desires, to give unto others, what comes from the Lord, for the glory of the Lord, AMEN!