1674) What Shall I Give? (part three of four)

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     (continued…) Many Chinese people were massacred when the Japanese invaded China in World War II.  Europeans and Americans living in China at the time were not massacred, but were herded into prison camps where they were kept for the duration of the war.  These were not soldiers, but professional people– government workers, doctors, missionaries, relief organization workers, and the like.

     One of these prisoners, Langdon Gilkey (1919-2004), wrote about his experiences in a book titled with the name of his particular prison camp, the Shangtung Compound.  Gilkey describes how these professional people immediately became organized to make the best possible use of their meager resources, and, to find ways to get along with each other in the difficult closeness of their living conditions.  They all suffered, but they made the best of it; organizing to share food, care for the sick, divide up the work fairly, and judge disputes.  They even organized a night school for something to do, with people teaching the others about their area of expertise, be it agriculture, language, medicine, theology, government, or whatever.  Everyone got along pretty well– until the American Red Cross sent 150 boxes of food and supplies.  The Japanese allowed its distribution, and it should have been a huge blessing for the prisoners in the camp.

     In this particular compound, each person would receive two full boxes.  The Japanese were beginning to hand out the boxes when a few of the Americans began to object loudly to their method of distribution.  They said that since the boxes were from the American Red Cross, the Americans should get all the boxes.  This would have meant that each American in the camp would get seven boxes, and all the others, mostly Europeans, would get nothing.  Legally, the Americans did have the right to all the supplies.  But the Japanese just assumed that in such a well ordered group, they would want the supplies to be evenly distributed to all.  That would certainly be best for continued good morale among the prisoners.

     But the strong objections continued, and finally a compromise was reached.  Everyone in the camp would get some supplies, but the Americans would get more.  Most of the other Americans, horrified at the behavior of a few, still shared all that they had.  But several did end keep their larger share, and from then on things were different.  Peace, good will, and order were replaced by national divisions, greed, complaining, competition, disorder, and an overall spirit of ill will.  Never again did the camp return to its original harmony.   The damage had been done, and long after everyone’s Red Cross supplies were long gone, the bad feelings continued.  Everything good that had been built up was destroyed by this one act of greed by a few people.

     It is more blessed to give than to receive.  (continued…)

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Hebrews 13:16  —  Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Proverbs 22:9  —  The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

Acts 20:34-35  —  (Paul said), You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

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All I am, and all I have,
I offer, Lord, to you.
I offer you these hands,
that you might use them
in and through my daily work.
I offer you these feet,
that you might lead them
to someone who needs my help.
I offer you these shoulders
if you should need them
to help lighten another’s load.
I offer you this voice
that you might use it
to speak up for those in need.
All I am, and all I have,
I offer, Lord, to you.

–www.faithandworship.com