Ephesians 4:28 – He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (NIV)
Jackie was the local town drunk. He had once been a great singer and entertainer, and had dreams of taking the music world by storm. Initially, he had some success, but then he began drinking too much and taking drugs. He fell into obscurity, and when I first met him, he was desperately trying to hide from the other alcoholics in the town.
He had come up to the manse, and I was in the garden, feeding a young crow that I was helping to recover, which had broken its wing when it fell from its high nest. Jackie was astounded, and his first words to me were, "I've heard a lot about you, minister, but I didn't know you could talk to animals as well!"
I laughed, and within a couple of minutes, Jackie was telling me his story. Evelyn was preparing lunch, so we invited him in to have something to eat. He was wild-eyed and scruffy. He felt out of place, but Evelyn's charming ways managed to put him at ease.
Jackie told us that he needed somewhere to get away from the other drunks. Our manse garden was surrounded by high trees and bushes, which offered him the privacy he needed. He had reached a low point in his life, where he would steal anything from anybody just to get a drink. He was a tormented soul, and our hearts went out to him.
After lunch, he wanted to do something for us. He liked to garden, and our rose bushes needed pruning. He asked if he could tidy them up, so we gave him permission. He not only pruned the roses, but he weeded the entire area. For the next several years, he kept coming to our garden, and we paid him to do the work. He sobered up and began to take care of himself. It was a remarkable change. And instead of stealing money for drink, he used his scant resources to help others in need.
He had family in Chicago, and he went out to visit them for the first time in years. They were astounded at the change and grateful to God for the miracle. And when our family moved to America, he came down from Chicago one year, to spend the day and night with us.
It was all the Lord's work, and through His mercy, God allowed Jackie to do something useful with his hands, so that for a while, he could have something to share with those in need. Perhaps, we could all apply that today by not just working for ourselves, but by using some of the blessings that God gives us to share with those who have the greatest need.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You challenge our lives and ask us to make changes in our lifestyle choices. You want us to help those who are struggling, and to give what we can to those who are in need. Grant us opportunities to put this teaching into action. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.