"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow" – when you now have it with you." (Pr 3:27-28).
One of the greatest benefits of reading God's Word on a daily basis is that when we make choices or cultivate habits that go against God’s Word, the Holy Spirit can use the words that we are reading to wake us up and show us where we are erring.
This morning, I sat down at my desk with my morning cup of coffee, opened up the Bible, and proceeded to read. When I got to the above two verses of Scripture in the book of Proverbs, I found myself not being able to move on to the other verses.
As I meditated on Proverbs 3:27-28, I reflected for a few minutes to see if anyone had asked me for something recently that I either refused to give or put off giving even though I easily could have provided whatever it was I was being asked to give. Since I did not recall anyone ringing my doorbell or calling me up to ask a favor of me recently, I decided that my life was lining up with these two verses of Scripture and that it was okay for me to move on to the next verse.
The Holy Spirit, however, having other plans, grabbed me by the collar as I proceeded to move on in my reading and pinned me to these two verses. As I continued to meditate on what Solomon was saying through the verses, the Holy Spirit lifted the veil from my eyes and showed me that there were indeed certain areas of my life that clearly were not lining up with what I was reading.
I have a confession
to make. In the past, I used to give generously
to different agencies that were operating for the benefit of the poor. My husband and I have always made sure that we sent money every month to
meet the needs of the poor here in the United States and all over the world. But one day, while I was browsing on the Internet, I
discovered that the leader of one of the charities to which we were giving was appropriating for
himself an annual salary of $600,000. This
information was provided in the financial report which the organization posted on its website.
I had (and still have) a major problem with someone collecting money for the poor and then dipping into that money to pay himself such an exorbitant salary. The President of the United States doesn't even draw such a salary! Long story short... Satan ended up using this unfortunate incident to turn me off to all charitable institutions. As the months went by, my checkbook remained closed. Whenever I would receive an envelope in the mail from an organization or charity crying out for financial assistance, I would just throw the request into the trash. In my mind, none of these agencies were to be trusted.
Even if I received an envelope in the mail from several organizations that I did trust, I would simply put the envelope in a tray on my desk, and I would say to myself, "I'll write out a check next week." But when next week would come, I would forget to write out the check and put it off until the following week.
The Lord showed me through Proverbs 3:27-28, that by doing this, I was withholding good from those charitable institutions that truly deserved the financial assistance that they were requesting. Somebody was coming to me for financial help. I had the money to give. Instead of taking the time right then and there to write out a check and send those people the help that they needed, I either ignored their request all together (because of mistrust on my part) or I would procrastinate and promise myself to write out a check the following week. Either way, I was "withholding good from those who deserved it, when it was in my power to act." I was saying to my neighbor, "Come back later; I'll give it tomorrow," even though I had the money that they needed now.
I immediately responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, stopped what I was doing, and took the time to write out a check to a Catholic international organization that provides food, clothing, shelter, medical aid, and education to the poor all over the world. The envelope for this organization had been sitting on my desk for months. I also made arrangements to give to this organization on a monthly basis.
It's easy for us to put things off, isn't it? There are many ways in which we can be guilty of withholding good from others when it is in our power to give that which is needed. For some of us, it might be a simple matter of writing out a check to help those in need. Others may be writing out checks, but what about ministry in the church? Have you ever sat in a pew, heard the priest announce that the church was in desperate need of cleaners, Eucharistic Ministers, CCD teachers, choir members, etc., and chose not to volunteer your service even though you knew you had both the time as well as the God-given gift or talent that was needed by the church?
Did God ever put someone on your heart and prompt you to call up that person, visit them, or even send them an encouraging note? Did you follow through with this divine prompting, or did you say to the Holy Spirit (without realizing that you were doing so), "Come back later; I'll give what you are prompting me to give tomorrow."
When I was in my twenties and living on the east coast, we had a woman in our church who had a terrible habit of putting off a ministry of encouragement for which God had gifted her. If the Holy Spirit inspired this woman to pray for someone, call up someone, or even take a few minutes to write out some encouraging scriptures on a card and mail it, she would forever put her ministry off. Then, months later, she would run into you at church and say, "The Lord laid you on my heart several months ago. Is everything okay?" Or she would say, "While I was praying, the Holy Spirit inspired me to send you some encouraging scriptures. I wrote them down several weeks ago. I'll have to get around to mailing them to you." If you did receive the note in the mail, it was months after your distressing situation had passed. God was laying people on this woman's heart who needed to be ministered to right then and there, not when she decided to do so at her own leisure.
If the Holy Spirit reveals a need to our heart, He expects us to meet that need now (if it is in our power to do so) – not next month or next year. Anytime we put off satisfying that need, we are guilty of the very thing Solomon warns against in Proverbs 3:27-28.
"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, "Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow" – when you now have it with you." (Pr 3:27-28).
I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to meditate on these two verses of Scripture to see if there are areas in your life that are not lining up with what God is teaching us through them.
I have found that whenever I begin to withhold from others, God begins to withhold from me. But when I pour myself out for others, God pours Himself out upon me. This is something that I have experienced time and time again. If I get selfish, and life starts to be all about me, my prayers don’t get answered, and I don’t feel God's blessing upon my life. But when I take up my cross, die to my will, and do and give what God wants of me, my prayers have power and God moves in my life once more.
Maybe one of the reasons why some of our prayers are not being answered is because we are withholding from God in areas to which He is calling us and has gifted us to give. We'll never know until we give what God is prompting us to give.
May God give us the grace to give when prompted to give and to avoid withholding good from those who truly deserve it. As we give of ourselves to others…
… may God in return continue to give of Himself to us.
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