Yesterday, I went outside to the backyard to find my father-in-law and mother-in-law working in the garden, digging holes to plant tomatoes and other vegetables. As they are in their 80s and don’t get around easily, I approached them and asked if I could play. That’s how children do it, isn’t it when they visit with friends and neighbors? The just walk up and ask to join in. So I thought I’d use a little humor since they didn’t seem to be getting along at the moment. So I was given the shovel and I dug the holes and we all fell into a new formation, one of us digging holes, one of us planting, the other handing the plants and so on. When I finally planted the last squash, or maybe it was zucchini, my father-in-law had moved on to picking apricots off the lawn from under the tree. The apricots did not get big at all before they had all fallen down. So no apricots this year.
My father-in-law was using a telescoping grabber to pick them up from the ground since he can’t bend over so easily and putting them all in a plastic bag. Otherwise, left on the lawn, they would rot and make a mess. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law was now trying to work on watering all the vegetables we had just planted. So I went and connected the hose to the tap on the house and unrolled it all the way to the garden with the wand attachment and helped her get the right spray setting on the nozzle so not too much water pounded the little plants. After I reduced the spray, I handed her the wand and thought I would go back inside to tend to personal matters. I then noticed that my father-in-law was still plucking apricots off the lawn. He could only grab one at a time with his grabber and I knew he’d be out there a long time at the rate he was going. So I decided to join him. I quickly and easily bent down and grabbed a bunch in each hand and kept on grabbing more, dumping them in his bag while he continued picking up one. At. A. Time…
As I worked alongside my in-laws, the Lord taught me a profound lesson. During His mortal ministry, He taught and exemplified going the extra mile. He taught that when someone takes your coat, give him your cloak, too. When someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. When someone compels you to walk with him a mile, walk with him two. With the Law of Moses, one could potentially learn to love God. With the Law of the Gospel, however, one gets to learn to love his fellow man. Not only did Jesus teach us how to love one another, but how to love one another so utterly and completely, that nothing is left to give. While He hung on the cross after having already suffered more than any mortal could suffer without dying, He was mocked.
39 ¶ And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads,
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him…
At any point in time, Jesus could have called down legions of angels to fight for Him. He didn’t even need an army. The God of all creation, who by mere words could utter, “let there be light,” and bring forth light, or to walk on water or calm the storm or to raise the dead by merely speaking words. There was nothing to stop Him from uttering words and letting the nails simply slip out and fall to the ground while His body healed of all that had been inflicted upon Him before their very eyes. And what a glorious sight it would have been! What a terrible scene it would have been to all who mocked Him. But instead He suffered it. He endured it. He allowed it. The God of heaven and all the earth submitted to every last stripe and insult that humanity had the energy to inflict upon Him. When finally, after hanging six hours on the cross, knowing he was fully spent, and there was nothing left to give, He finally said, “it is finished.” And then He willingly gave up the ghost.
No man took it from Him. He gave it all until there was nothing left to give.
All this was spoken to my mind as I helped my father-in-law pick up all the apricots. There is a vast difference between knowing such things in my brain and having them written in my heart. And this day, it was written in my heart. When he had finished, I asked him what else he wanted to do. He said he finished and he was leaving to take care of an errand. When I was satisfied that there was nothing more I could do to help in the backyard and that my in-laws were getting along again, I went back inside to tend to personal matters.
Anyone who considers himself or herself a disciple of Jesus Christ may learn by experience to give until there is nothing left to give. If you see a homeless person on the side of the road, you can give him your spare change if that is what he is asking for. You can then go on your way or you can ask yourself if there is more you can do. You can get to know him. You can introduce yourself. Ask him if he’d like to join you and eat out together. If you think you can do more, maybe bring him home and cook a meal for him instead. If you think you can do more, let him take a bath and spend the night. Only you know if you can spare enough change, or enough time, or enough space in your home.
One day, some years ago, for example, my family and I were visiting Salt Lake City, Utah. We had pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant where a man was holding a cardboard sign asking for change for food. We had gone inside and while waiting to be served, I walked outside and sat down with the man and began chatting with him. I asked him if he was hungry and invited him to come inside for a meal. He just stared off and said all he really wanted was a cigarette. I didn’t have any cigarettes or cash so I was not able to help him further. He declined the meal and I wished him well and went back inside with my family.
Now I have been accused of being an enabler by people who do not believe Jesus Christ’s teachings. I may have helped a bum get his latest fix or bottle of booze. But I say to them, who of us is not enabled by God every minute of every day while we go about our way walking in pride and vanity? Yet God enables each breath we take, including those moments we are most carnal and sinful. Do the angels accuse God of enabling us sinners who masquerade as Christians? There are opportunities to be helpful wherever we go. We can help a little or a lot, or whenever possible, help and give until there’s nothing left to give. That is what it means to love another as Jesus loved everyone. It is to love so willingly and utterly and so completely that there is nothing left to give. That is how I wish to leave this world. I want to leave knowing I have nothing left to give.