Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be A Penny Picker-Upper

Several years ago, I went to a youth camp with my daughters. We were in Nashville, Tennessee at an event called MissionFuge. We would have worship, Bible study, games, lessons, and then go out into the city and actually DO missions. 

One particular morning during our morning worship time, we were all given a penny and told this story: How many times to you see a penny on the street and don't pick it up? It's dirty. You don't know where it's been. It could have dirt on it. Mud, germs, who knows? So you either step on it or over it and walk away. But it still has worth. It is still a penny and it is still worth what it's valued at. Just like people. We were encouraged that day to have a face-to-face encounter with God and be "Penny Picker-Uppers."

How many times though, do we treat people like an old penny? How often do we pass someone on the street, dirty, maybe a little smelly, maybe they don't speak clearly, or maybe they smell like alcohol, and we walk on by them because we just don't want to mess with them? They aren't worth it. But... they ARE still valuable...just like the penny. And while we might stoop to pick up a penny, would we stoop to pick up this human treasure?

We are ALL valuable to God. He sees our hearts. He sees our worth. And He has called us to be "Penny Picker-Uppers." It's a matter of life and death, really. A literal matter. Because what if that dirty, smelly, alcohol-and-drug-ridden-slurred-speech-speaking treasure of God was the next person to save the life of someone you love? What if they were the next minister-in-waiting to bring a group of people into a relationship with the Lord?

The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. ~2 Peter 3:9 (NLT)

That day at MissionFuge, I was supposed to be leading a group of teenage girls to our mission destination. Just after hearing the penny story, we were taken into a daycare and shown the 4-year-olds' room. Outside the walls, there were the precious little blessings, playing on the playground. Then the lady in charge handed us rubber gloves, buckets, and cleaning supplies and told us were were going to clean the kids' room. We were all quiet. I knew the girls didn't want to clean the room. I didn't either. I had come to do ministry, by golly! I wanted out on that playground to be with the kids!

But we split up and started cleaning nonetheless. I went to the corner where the cubbies were, and began to half-heartedly wipe them down. But as I swiped into the one of the empty cubbies, I heard a scratch. I felt around inside, because I was sitting lower than the cubby, and I picked something out of the little box....a penny. My eyes watered and I realized that I had just had a "Face-to-Face" encounter with God. He reminded me of the penny story and that those little "pennies" out on the playground needed love, and the greatest love I could show them was to clean their room.

I turned around and got the girls' attention. I held up the penny and said, "Look what I just found." The room went silent. They got the message, too. Then I said, "I think we need to get this room cleaned." Immediately they went to work with a new found vigor. That room was cleaned top to bottom, including over the trim around the doors and windows!

It didn't take long and the room was spotless and smelling wonderful. Then we were able to go out and play with the little ones. It was such a better blessing after we humbled ourselves. But afterward, when we all went back inside, the teacher had the kids look around their room. Even as little as they were, they noticed. Then she explained that their "playmates" had cleaned up for them, and they should say thank you. It was what happened next that surprised all of us.

Every one of those little, precious blessings, ran to us and threw their arms around us and hugged us! You see, these blessings were children of parents who were recovering drug addicts, some just out of prison, and all trying to clean their lives up, find jobs, and start over. The kids would come to the daycare at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes not leave until 10 at night. 

The whole point of that trip was to have a face-to-face encounter with God... and that day, we did. We were humbled and learned a very important lesson. Being a penny-picker-upper isn't about the copper coin. It's all about spreading the love of God....

Then these righteous ones will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?" ~Matthew 25:37-39 (NLT)

If all you get out of this article is that you need to pick up more pennies, then you've missed the point. I told this story at church several years ago. A week later, we were eating dinner with a group of people after church and a lady called me over to her table. As I approached, she held up a penny and said, "Look what I have! I have been picking up pennies ever since you told that story." She was so proud of herself and how many pennies she had picked up that week. But I couldn't smile at her. I could not acknowledge her accomplishment. Why? Because she totally missed the point. She was picking up monetary pennies, not human ones. It saddened me greatly.

It saddens me now that there are others missing the point. Every time I see a penny on the ground I remember that day at the daycare. I wonder, how many human pennies are there? And I begin to look. It may be a smile, saying hello, giving encouragement, or just visiting someone who is alone or feeling down. But picking up "Pennies" is what we are called to do. Don't miss the point. Instead, ask God to show you someone you can lift up today, tomorrow, next week... but whatever you do, be the right kind of Penny Picker-Upper.

And the King will say, "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!" ~Matthew 25:40 (NLT)

So...how many "pennies" can you find to pick up?


Valerie Comer said...

Thank you for the challenge!

retha said...

A great "story"!
One our smallest value coin used to be two sparrows. In short the story is to remember how GOD took care of the people in the concentration camps and to always remember HE is taking care of us.

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