We measure out cups of flour, oil, bran, molasses and more, careful to follow the recipe, exactly. We are keeping people alive, she tells me. This, her hands brush the tops of the measuring cups, will save lives. I am eight years old, living in a comfortable house in upper-class Bucks County Pennsylvania. The concept of lives needing to be saved is foreign.
But I know how to help.
Carefully measure ingredients. Press the pasty mixture flat into a cookie sheet and then wait. The smell is of burnt granola and some smoky substance I can only assume is the molasses binding that mixture together. We cut the cooled sheet into bars, pack them tightly into wax paper-lined buckets, mark them with the project’s name and ship them off.
This is our once a month commitment to save lives.
What I didn’t know then that I know now is that by teaching me to measure baking ingredients my parents were teaching me to measure a life. They were teaching me the worth of a life. Was it worth it to me, for instance, to stand on our wide plank wooden floors, in the comfort of our massive home, for a few hours every month to perhaps save a life in Honduras?
We are all measuring lives, all of us. We do it unconsciously. We do it culturally. We do it spiritually. We do it physically. We certainly do it emotionally. Whether we are measuring the worth of our neighbor or the worth of a tribe in Papua New Guinea, the worth of a girl behind the counter at the mall or a staff member at our church. We are measuring them carefully, waiting to see if they are worth our investment, our time, or our energy.
The truth is that before we started doling out our apportioned care for anyone, Christ had already completed the transaction. He’d already deemed its worth and it was far beyond what any of us could spare.
But somehow it’s easier for us to see the worth of that tribe in Papua New Guinea, a starving child in Honduras, or even a trafficked woman on the streets of Mumbai, than it is to see the needs of our next-door neighbor or the girl behind the mall counter.
Jesus said, “if you do this to your neighbor, you’re doing it to me” and “love your neighbor as yourself” and that sticks to my ribs like those nutrient bars would stick to the ribs of those children. Whatever I’m doing to my neighbor, or not doing, I’m interacting with Christ in the same way.
And He doesn’t say that to push me into involuntary servitude or slavery, He says that because more than any human who has ever lived has understood, He understands. He gets weights and balances; He understands measurements; He understands worth. He has not asked anything of me that He Himself did not taste. He understands it because in the face of our injustice toward Him, He still gave it all.
What my parents were doing, by bringing a piece of the needs of Honduras to our kitchen once a month was showing me that from our kitchen we could be neighbors with children in Central America. I knew that the oats I was mixing with my own hands would feed the bellies of children who would certainly die without these essential nutrients. I understood that I could not do it all, but I could do something.
As we walk through this year, brushing shoulders with opportunities across the sea and across the street, I want to encourage us to see worth in our neighbors—to see them through the lens of Christ’s all. To measure out worth to them by diving in and serving them in ways that may go unnoticed or unseen. To show them that the love of Christ knows no depth or height or width or measure.
Originally published on the Hope for North Texas blog.
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