Spare Change or Real Change


Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’” (Acts 3:6).

As I travel the world, I often end up in places that are desperately poor. It is heartrending to visit the slums of Nairobi or Delhi, where the streets are lined with palms—the palms of outstretched hands begging for help. It is especially wrenching to Christians, who have a heart for compassion. As I take fellow believers with me to poorer countries, I notice a wonderful gut reaction when they are confronted with this poverty and desperate need. I am also pleased when they give and minister to these people.

But in Acts 3, I notice a scene that depicts a dilemma for us today. Peter and John were on their way to the temple in the early afternoon. They might have been enjoying a good chat about the events of the morning as they went through the temple gate. They had done this many times and knew the same beggar would be sitting there with his hand out, asking for what he thought would make him happy and able to survive another day. He asked them for money. I have experienced that a zillion times, and in my early missionary days I used to give a coin or two as I went on quickly about my business.

Peter and John had passed this man many times, but this time, Peter and John stopped and looked the man right in the eye. They knew that if they gave him a coin he would be back the next day asking for more. They also knew his greater need: to be able to walk! “We don’t have any money to give you,” Peter said. These guys were missionaries—they had no spare change. BUT they did have what the man actually needed—real change through the power of the Savior.

This man jumped to his feet. At 70, I cannot do that any more, but this man leaped up and went into the temple walking and jumping. He could not have done that with a few coins. He could do it only when Jesus of Nazareth entered his life and healed the condition that had crippled him his entire life.

The sad lesson from the story is that Peter and John had it right, and we so often have it wrong. Today, unfortunately, most of us would say, “Silver and gold I do have, so here are a few bucks; I hope it helps. But what I really have—the power of Jesus Christ Himself—I am in too much of a hurry or too embarrassed [or whatever] to give you!”

Put that in the spiritual realm, and you see our problem. We must meet the real needs of the people we meet. We must see beyond their crippled condition and their cries for temporary help. We could solve their dilemma if we stopped and explained the eternal answer to them.

Notable people like Chuck Colson were sitting by the temple gate, begging, until someone looked them in the eye, told them what they really needed and then gave it to them in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Their lives have been transformed, and they are walking and leaping into the hearts of people across the globe.

Daily in our ministries we encounter people who do not know Christ. They sit in our pathways with their spiritual palms out, asking for advice and affection and all the other “props” they think will make them happy for one more day. Yet they need Jesus so they can leap and run and walk spiritually and in turn demonstrate to others the power of God to transform lives.

I guess it is easier to toss them a coin and proceed to the temple. We have silver and gold these days, but do we have what they really need—and do we give it to them? It is amazing what can be accomplished in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

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