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The Haves and Have Nots

The expression “the haves and have nots” dates back to the 17th century. One of the initial usages was based upon your socio-economic status. This superficial characterization focused on anyone who was living in poverty or did not have much money. As the wealthy flashed signs of their wealth while looking down on the less fortunate, the haves and the have nots was conceived.

To one is given in and through the [Holy] Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same [Holy] Spirit; To another [wonder-working] faith by the same [Holy] Spirit, to another the extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12:8-9.

The apostle Paul created his own list of the haves and have nots in the first century. However, the context of this list was based upon spiritual gifts given to Christians within the Church at Corinth. Some individuals received special powers such as healing, prophecy and the ability to perform miracles. Apparently, these talents were going to some of their heads, looking down upon people with lesser gifts such as giving, hospitality and service.

To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight ([c]the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose); to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such] tongues. 11 All these [gifts, achievements, abilities] are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same [Holy] Spirit, Who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses, 1 Corinthians 12:10-11.

Not much has changed over the past 2000 years. Occupations like doctors, lawyers, and scientists are held in high esteem while those forced to work in blue collared jobs are looked down upon. Regardless of how others view you, God wants Christians to focus on what they have, not what you don’t. Part of life is figuring out what you’re the best at and where you fit in. Once your spiritual gift is revealed to you, the rest of life should be spent looking for opportunities to apply your gift. Fan into flame what you have so that your life impacts the have nots.

by Jay Mankus

Closing Your Eyes on the Poor

Poverty is something you can be born into, forced into by extreme conditions or reached by a series of bad decisions.  Upon graduating from college, I went into social work.  I spent two days a week as a youth director at a church in Rising Sun, Maryland and the rest of my time as a Program Coordinator for the Methodist Action Plan in the inner city of Wilmington, Delaware.  I made just enough to eat and put gas in my car.  To save money I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement for 6 months.  Essentially, I was poor, unable to fulfill my goals in life on my own.  When my church home Cornerstone heard of my plight, a love offering was taken prior to my departure for a youth ministry trade school.  Without any previous conversation, this gift was exactly what I needed to attend this school.

Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses, Proverbs 28:27.

A little over a year later, I remembered this act of generosity striving to pay it forward.  Thus, when the church I was serving in turned away a homeless college student, I offered the couch in my apartment.  Although, this was an inconvenience to me, the Bible instructs followers to lend a helping hand.  I’m not sure if this lack of privacy led to my decision to leave youth ministry six months later, but I have become jaded.  This negative experience has led me to become selfish, putting my family first.  In the process, I have begun closing my eyes to the poor.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Corinthians 9:7.

If acknowledging a flaw is the first step to recovery, then I must confess that I have turned a blind eye to the poor and needy.  Instead of stopping to listen and lend a helping hand, I pretend that I don’t see those pandering at various intersections.  The Lord has a firm warning to those who ignore the poor.  Solomon suggests curses will follow those who continue to avoid the needy.  May the Holy Spirit help people like me trying to break the bad habit of closing my eyes on the poor.

by Jay Mankus

 

Humble Beginnings

Every life is like a book with a beginning, middle and end.  However, sometimes portions of life doesn’t make sense until insight is provided from the future.  As for me, its clear that I started from humble beginnings.  Born with a severe speech impediment, life didn’t seem very fair.  In addition, I was accident prone, crashing face first into the pavement on my bike, breaking my leg in two pieces after jumping from an above ground pool and having the tip of my pinky finger caught in a car door.  These events summed up my early days on earth.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted, Matthew 23:12.

However, little did I know that all these things likely occurred to keep me from becoming full of myself.  As my athletic talents began to blossom, strange occurrences immediately followed crowning moments.  Appendicitis, a complete ligament tear and head on collision prevented me from becoming a prideful person.  Looking back, perhaps my analysis is incorrect, but something in my soul makes me believe these trials kept me humble.  Furthermore, this experience helped me realize that my talents are on loan from God.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” James 4:6.

Like me, Jesus also came from humble beginnings.  When his future father, Joseph, was about to divorce Mary, God intervened.  Yet, Jesus was born into poverty, forced to work hard as a carpenter to make a living.  Growing up in Nazareth, a town with a terrible reputation, Jesus had a lot to overcome.  Nonetheless, when the appointed time arrived, God the Father raised his Son up to find favor on earth.  May those of you enduring hard times currently, remember the promise of humility, that those who are humbled will be lifted up!

by Jay Mankus

The Difference in a Gift

In the Ultimate Gift, Drew Fuller plays Jason Stevens, a spoiled brat who has lived a life of luxury.  Despite his grandfather’s efforts to curtail this behavior, Red Stevens leaves his grandson an unusual inheritance, a series of tests.  Following the completion of each task, Jason receives the next challenge.  A different kind of gift, the goal of this exercise is to wean Jason off of his love of money.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” Matthew 19:24.

This passage of the Bible suggests its harder for the wealthy to enter heaven than the poor.  Speaking in hyperbole, Jesus references the area outside of city gates where camels would be tied up.  Based upon the context, an encounter with a rich young ruler, the rich tend to find assurance in their accumulated finances.  Thus, trusting in the Lord for salvation becomes more complicated as one amasses great wealth.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on,” Mark 12:44.

During past experiences on mission trips in college, I was always amazed at the peace dirt poor individuals possess.  Shacks are appreciated like a mansion, thankful for every little possession.  Thus, when a person stricken by poverty offers up a gift, its usually out of the goodness in their hearts.  This offering probably won’t be gold or silver.  Yet, when moved by the Holy Spirit, the poor give, trusting that the Lord will provide their daily bread.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

What’s In Your Lunch Box?

Before the invention of insulated lunch bags, kids brought decorative lunch boxes to school with their favorite cartoon characters or television show on the outside and thermos. Meanwhile, adults brought coolers or metal containers which resembled a toolbox to their workplace. Although teasing did occur on some levels within society, what’s was in your lunch box is what got people’s attention.

In the days of Jesus, one of his disciples claimed he performed so many miracles on a daily basis that if each one was written down, there would not be enough library books in the world to cover them, John 21:25.  Of the miracles of Jesus recorded in the Bible, only one appears in all 4 gospels, the feeding of the 5000.  Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:1-13 detail this supernatural experience.  While there are many theories why God chose this particular event to be covered by all 4 authors, the answer lies in the lunch box of a poor young boy.

Luke, a physician who accompanied the apostle Paul on some of his mission trips, explains the dire situation leading up to Jesus’ miracle, over 5000 people are in a remote place without any access to food, Luke 9:12-13.  Meanwhile, only one disciple records the source of their food, a young boy who offered his small lunch: 5 wafers and 2 sardines, John 6:9.  In view of this information, most of the disciples likely shared Philip’s sentiments in John 6:7, “no way Jesus, we don’t have the time or money to help these starving people!”  Andrew, the brother of Peter, made a suggestion, yet even he had his doubts, John 6:9.

Today, millions of people worldwide are in desperate need of a miracle, either in the form of clothing, food or shelter.  Others are still searching for a full time job to provide for their family, humbling themselves to do whatever it takes to survive.  In the end, all Jesus is looking for in people is faith like a mustard seed, Mark 4:30-32.  May you step out in faith, like this little poor boy, sharing his lunch with thousands, setting the scene for a memorable miracle from God.

Feel free to comment below, sharing what miracle you are hoping, longing and praying for.

by Jay Mankus

 

By the Sweat of Your Brow

 

The poor have said, “the rich have won life’s lottery!”  Meanwhile, the middle class are waiting for their big break, a chance for the world to recognize their talents.  On the other hand, the wealthy are trying to keep up with the Joneses, working harder than ever to buy their next show piece.

Whether you are wrestling with poverty, keeping your head above debt or living on cloud 9, everyone makes their living by the sweat of their brow.  Since original sin entered mankind in Genesis 3:17-19, God made life as we know it hard.  Gone are the days of milk and honey, evaporating in a promised land turned to sand.  Like the humidity of a summer sun sapping all your strength, the worries of life can wilt any soul not prepared for unexpected trials.

As I was doing my final touches of yard work before the growing season ends, I was reminded of God’s words in Genesis 3:19.  Yes, even the invincible will experience kryptonite at some point.  This will paralyze your ability to save yourself, leading to the grave, to become like the dust that God formed Adam out of.  In view of this bleak destiny, its vital to make plans for the afterlife, John 14:3.  Therefore, while you have time to breathe, take note of God’s promise in 1 John 5:13-15.  Inquire before you expire.

by Jay Mankus

The First Pawn Star

Prior to 1950, pawning was the leading form of credit for consumers in the United States of America.  While chess players refer to  a pawn as the least valuable piece on their board, pawning is when someone exchanges an object or possession for cash, used as collateral in case this person can’t pay back a broker or business owner.  The History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars, starring 3 generations of the Harrison family’s Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, has popularized this ancient practice.

As I read Genesis 47:13-26, I realized that Joseph, governor of Egypt during the great 7 year famine, became the first pawn star on earth.  When the Egyptians ran out of money after the first few years of this drought, Joseph began to barter food in exchange for cattle, donkeys, goats, horses and sheep.  Once residents had pillaged all of their possessions, land and labor were offered up for food.  Ahead of his time, this shrewd business man developed a plan, similar to a tax, pawning grain at a 20% interest rate, expecting to be repaid once their fields were restored.

Whenever you think you’ve had it tough in this economy, please read Genesis 47:13-19.  After hearing this sad story of poverty, may God help you see how blessed you truly are today.  This passage serves as a reminder to be prepared for a rocky future by saving as much as you can now.  If God didn’t give Joseph a vision for the future, Egypt would have been caught off guard.  Therefore, take this message as a wake up call, ready to bare down, living a frugal life so that when famine returns you and your family will survive.

by Jay Mankus

Dignity with Poverty

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term principle means a rule or belief governing one’s personal behavior.  When an individual clearly defines, expresses and holds to these values, they are able to look at themselves in the mirror, knowing they did the right thing.  Even if their decision leads to poverty, its better to suffer with dignity than die in shame.

In the corporate world, financial scandals have left the masses wondering if there anyone who is trustworthy.  Bernie Madoff, Enron executives and recent IRS mishandling of funds have left a trail of corruption behind for others to clean up.  Maybe this is why Agur professes a sensible truth in Psalm 30:8.  “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”

One of the things I’ve never been good at is “playing the game” at work.  Instead of kissing up to others in higher positions, using flattery to gain a favorable status or putting on a happy face, I have always been myself.  Sure, I work hard, try my best and want to succeed, but I refuse to fake how I really feel.  I’d rather embrace dignity with poverty than allow riches to corrupt my soul.  Whatever my future holds, I am going to stay true to my principles, letting the chips fall where they may.  When you seek God first, Matthew 6:33, all of your provisions are provided.  Stay true to the one who created you!

by Jay Mankus

Faith Like the Jeffersons

In their theme song, Movin’ On Up, 2 African Americans elude to their struggles to achieve the American Dream.  As the lyrics below indicate, George and Louise Jefferson worked their way up from poverty to the upper middle class.  This 70’s sitcom served as a spin off of All in the Family, lasting 11 seasons with an impressive total of 253 episodes.

Movin’ On Up

Well we’re movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen;
Beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’,
Just to get up that hill.
Now we’re up in the big leagues,
Gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby,
There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

Well we’re movin on up,
To the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up,
To the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

For the average middle class family in America, times have gotten tough and if the recent down turn in the economy is any indication, its only going to get worse.  Like the Jefferson’s, I have big dreams for a deluxe apartment in the sky, yet I currently find myself as a lowly peon.  When you start over or begin a new job, you’re at the bottom, looking up at everyone else.  To accomplish your goals, you have to stand out, Philippians 2:14-15, going above and beyond the basic expectations of your employer.

Although you might feel like Cinderella at times, lost and forgotten, you must possess faith like the Jeffersons, Matthew 21:21-22.  Their vision for a better life didn’t happen over night, they had to work for it.  Thus, the next time you feel like you’re not where you want to be, bear down by trusting in the Lord, Proverbs 3:5-6.  Aim yourself with the attitude of Christ, 1 Peter 4:1-2 and the desires of your heart will be within reach, Jeremiah 29:11.  Keep the faith!

by Jay Mankus

Not A Storybook Ending

Hollywood has made billions off of happily ever after finales. The hero appears to have died several times, only to be miraculously saved, escaping death so that a sequel can repeat the script with more dramatics. Unfortunately, third world nations, the disadvantaged and unlucky have woken up to a not so storybook ending.

As Power Ball numbers come up empty, the silence of good paying job offers continue and signs of mediocrity fill the pages of life, individuals are left scratching their heads. Where is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Doesn’t the good guy win in the end? Why do the wicked seem to prosper without being punished? These are just a few thoughts which run through the minds of those who have not tasted success in recent years.

A dose of reality is often painful, facing the facts that your life hasn’t turned out how you expected it would. In this disappointment, perseverance will either make  or break you. In the gospel according to Tin Cup, “either the moment will define you or you will define the moment?” In other words, how you handle obstacles, setbacks and trials will influence the outcome of your life story. Thus, the next time you endure a not so happy ending, fight with all that is within you, to insure your future will include life everlasting, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

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