Written by Charles Christian, Indonesia
One day, a friend messaged me on WhatsApp saying that she had a condition that required medication, and she needed to borrow money from me to buy the medicine, as she was unable to afford it. After learning more about her medical condition, I told her that I would lend her the money needed for her purchase, but on the condition that she would send me a receipt as proof of purchase because I wanted to make sure the money was going towards what she said she needed it for.
She agreed and asked me to transfer the money to her bank account and send her the transfer receipt, which I did.
A few minutes later, she told me that she had bought her medicine, and the money covered the cost nicely. However, she said that the pharmacy didn’t give her a receipt, so I asked her to send me a photo of the medicine, but the only picture she sent was of a broken packaging. She said she had opened the package and had put the medicine into a container, but she was unable to provide me with a photo of the container and the medicine.
Her story didn’t quite match up, so I pressed for more information, and eventually, she admitted she had lied to me. She said that her parents will be buying the medicine for her, and when I reminded her to keep the receipt, she said that the pharmacy her parents went to didn’t issue any receipts. I asked her to buy it from another pharmacy that’ll provide a receipt, and she said she felt like I was making things very complicated.
Then, the next morning she sent me this surprising message:
I wanted to say to you that you complicate things too much when it comes to helping others. My parents don’t like it. You seem to be too cautious though it was not that big an amount of money. I’m sorry that I have to say this, other people who have helped me before were never as complicated as you. You knew that the pharmacy doesn’t provide receipts. I just told you what my father said.
I got angry when I read her message, then I replied “If you don’t like it, just return me my money.”
Her reply both shocked and irritated me:
It has been given, it cannot be returned.
However, I tried to control my emotions and when I calmed down, I reminded her that she had asked to borrow my money, and that she didn’t ask for a donation. Alas, my messages were ignored. To be honest, I was ready to give her the money to help her. I didn’t say it to her because I wanted her to be responsible with her request (to borrow the money). I didn’t expect to get it back.
When I Realized I Had Been Robbing God
I was very angry, and her reply played on my mind. But I reminded myself not to follow my emotions. I tried to calm myself by doing some exercises. That was when I felt like God was saying to me in my heart: “Charles, aren’t you often like this?”
“What do you mean, God?” I was confused.
“You pray for me to bless you, but when I bless you and ask you to give an offering or bless others with what I’ve given you, you think twice about it. Don’t you remember that the money I give you is not yours? It’s Mine, I’ve just passed it on to you, and I want you to bless others with it, too.”
I was hit by that thought, and I was also reminded by God’s word in Malachi 3:7-9:
“Return to me, and I will return you,” says the LORD Almighty. “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me.”
That’s probably how God feels when I act like a reluctant steward in the area of my finances, picking and choosing how much to give and how much to save. I’ve been tithing for many years and I know I have to give out of gratitude, but there are times I would argue with God that I needn’t give an offering on top of my 10 per cent tithe. I’ve worked so hard for my wage, so why should I give more? See how it’s like saying to God, “You’ve given me this, it cannot be returned.”
I had forgotten that although I work for my money, it is God who has blessed me with good health, talent, and given me the opportunity to earn a living. So, everything that I’ve earned is actually God’s. I’m just a steward of His blessings, I don’t own it.
Learning to be a Good Steward
After reflecting on these truths, I was no longer angry with my friend. I never found out what the money I lent her was actually used for, and she didn’t contact me for an entire year. It’s been a difficult journey for me as I’ve tried to figure out the line between extending help to those who need it, and being cautious so that we aren’t taken advantage of. How does one show love to a difficult person?
However, God transformed the bad experience I had with my friend into a precious lesson. From it, I learned that everything I own is from God, that I came into this world empty-handed, and will leave empty-handed. As Job 1:21 says: “Naked I come from my mother’s womb, and naked I’ll depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised”. God has also shown me that giving to tithes and offering is not a waste of money, but it’s instead a way of transforming my earthly money into treasures to be stored in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
I’ve also learned that being a good steward of the things God has given me is a life-long process. It really is never-ending, because once we think we’ve become really good at it, pride can seep in and we start becoming complacent. I pray that God helps me to keep remembering that all the good things I have is His, and to use it wisely for His glory.
This lesson is also a reminder that God can use any unpleasant things we experience in life to teach us a divine lesson. So, if tomorrow we face something unpleasant, why not just take a moment to pray and ask God, “God, what do you want to teach me today through this?” Listen to Him, and turn your disappointment into a precious lesson.