24 Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. 25 The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
Here in the text there is a paradox, those who open up their hand and let go end up with more than those who hold on tightly. It seems to me that God is telling us that we are not in control of what we have but we are in control of what we give, we determine the measure. One would think that the best way to accumulate would be to build a dam to hold it all back, not let it out. Why does that approach cause the opposite, why does the lake seem to dry up when we stop the outflow, and what are the real effects of having no outflow? Something that has helped me think through and try to understand this process has been to look at other places in God’s created world where there is no out flow and what impact that has as a result.
Let’s look at bodies of water that have no outflow, closed drainage basins that retain water yet allow no outflow to other external bodies of water, such as rivers or oceans. These closed bodies of water which are called an endorheic basin are also interestingly also referred to as terminal basins. Even though these bodies of water are damned up and do not loose water due to outflow there are still several other ways they start to dry up. The greatest loss of water comes through evaporation and seepage. Minerals leached from the surrounding rocks are deposited in the basin, and left behind when the water evaporates leaving high concentrations of minerals. There are also other inflow erosion products including pollution which comes in and because there is no outflow they can’t leave. Over time evaporation and input of erosion products can cause the endorheic lake to become relatively saline often turning it into a “salt lake” sometimes with far greater concentrations of salt than the sea. As a result these bodies of water can become devoid of life, the most famous aptly named the Dead Sea, which is over 8 times saltier than the ocean. Because there is no outflow it is easier for these bodies of water to become stagnant at times, turning into marshes that can become the breeding ground for mosquitoes and bacteria. Endorheic bodies of water can at times have great increases in the amount of water in them because when there is a high inflow they rise quickly because they have no outflow. Over time what we find is that many of them are actually shrinking, they are terminal, eventually ending in dusty salt flats, empty and void of life.
Life is a series of choices and actions. We need an evaluation system to determine, am I going the way I want to go? For me the bible becomes that evaluation system that helps me to answer the question what is the value of what I determine is significance and importance? Is generosity one of my values? Am I living a generous life? Or is my life one where water flows in but little to nothing flows out?
If you go back to the Bible you discover that in Acts, the community around the church recognized the believers as followers of Christ by their generosity because it stood in such stark contrast to the society that they lived in! They marveled at the generosity of the church because the New Testament church had a culture of generosity. Have we lost this culture? Generosity goes against our human nature because our human nature is primarily concerned with self-preservation and its nature is to hold onto. Generosity by its very nature wants to give, so we have a conflict, a clashing of two natures, one that wants to give the other to hold on to. A while back there was a new reality TV show that aired called hoarders, it may have been a new show but it’s not a new problem. If you have ever watched the show you may have shaken your heads in disbelief, unable to imagine living like that. However, the truth is, we are all hoarders by nature. Our world teaches us to get all we can, keep all we can and the one who dies with the most toys wins. God on the other hand says this tight fisted approach to life causes us to lose everything and His Word will always fly in the face of my flesh because I was born selfish.
What does a life of outflow look like? According to the bible, refreshed. Do we want refreshed lives? Is that the life we are living? In this refreshing life God talks about giving freely to refresh others. Is this the water boy approach to life? What is the purpose of the water boy, isn’t it simply to refresh the thirsty? Because those in the game will become tired, thirsty and dry, the water boy has one goal, simply to encourage his team by refreshing them so they can stay in the game.
So how do water boys refresh others?
- They are intentional
They see this as their job and they take it seriously even if others don’t take them seriously. They are prepared; before the game ever starts they are preparing the water, ice and cups, in order to be ready. They prepare because they know that those on the team will need to be refreshed, it’s not if, it’s when. They are paying attention for opportunities and they take advantage of those times when they can run in and hydrate others. Am I intentional in my refreshing?
- They Provide what is needed to refresh
As we have increased in our understanding of what the human body goes through during excessive physical exertion we have changed what is given to refresh. Along with water we have added drinks that include electrolytes and other needed nutrient. Do I give what is needed or what I want to give?
- They pay attention to others
Being a water boy is not a glamorous position, often they serve in obscurity, when was the last time any sports hero gave the water boy a shout out? They don’t do it for the attention, their focus is others and they are generous with the refreshments. They give based not on how they feel but on what others need because they see others as part of the team.
Am I a water boy willing to be there to refresh others with an outflow of what they need? Practically what is that outflow, that Gatorade bottle that others need.
- A listening ear
James 1:9 “let every man be swift to hear”
Romans 12:10 “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other” Hugs are a one size fits all!
Philemon 1:7 “Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people”
Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength”
Ephesians 4:29 “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them”
- A Smile
Genesis 33:10 “what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is like seeing the face of God”
Romans 1:9 “God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God”
When you think about it technically it’s not hard to be a water boy, I mean it’s not complicated, you just have to decide, do you want to serve the team? What kind of life are you living, is it refreshing?