In his book, Survival Guide for the Soul, author and pastor Ken Shigematsu recalls a story of a missionary who once blessed a young boy in India with an ice cream cone on his birthday. So marvellously excited was the boy, that he literally quivered in front of the presented cone before taking it. Then, as if overcome by some great epiphany, he took the cone and turned toward the street where the other neighbouring children were at play. "Hey! Come here! It's ice cream! Everyone gets a lick!" Sure enough, all the children lined up and each one got to take one lick from the ice cream cone. Everyone was laughing and smiling, most of all, the boy who held the cone before each of the children. He then offered the missionary a chance, who, although he did not particularly like ice cream, took a polite lick as well.
The missionary then recalled the immense satisfaction that he saw on the boy's face. In all his years of watching kids with ice cream, he never saw such happiness as in this moment. This boy was not from a wealthy family. It was entirely possible that he had never even tasted ice cream before. But his life experience of poverty and humble circumstances imbued him with a heightened understanding that generosity would lead to immense satisfaction.
While I know little of the kind of poverty spoken of in India, as a pastor of a small church, I have a contextual measure of understanding we could call humble circumstances. As a church of 40, we are not raking in cash every Sunday from the offering plate, and if we considered taking on some major project with a juicy price tag, we would certainly not be able justify moving forward in any conventional wisdom. However, when I consider the story of the missionary's young friend and his life-giving ice cream, I immediately feel the same kind of zeal. I, too, want to ask the question, "Who wants a lick of the ice cream?"
Certainly, that's a question I get to share with my board at the beginning of the new year. But I take this occasion to do you the same courtesy. You may not come from a family of means. You may only have what seems enough to handle the basics of living, financially speaking. It is also possible that you live with plenty, and have more than just what you need to get by. Regardless of the circumstances, I ask you to remember the words of the Apostle Paul: "I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13 NASB).
What you have is not the focus. How you handle what you have is everything. Since all your provision comes from God, it matters not how much you have. In other words, consider the immense joy that comes from sharing what you have with others. Do not be afraid of generosity. Consider the great reward that comes from declaring to others, "Everyone gets a lick!"
If you are a practicing Christian, here is something you need to hear. If your heart and mind is that the addicted, impoverished, and broken people dug their own grave and the rest of society is not responsible for their bad mistakes, then I ask you to wake up.