I remember sitting in my tent cabin on the side of a mountain in Yosemite National Park, where I was working for the summer. I was twenty-three years old, and I had just finished college. It was the summer before I got engaged…and the summer my grandmother died. It was the summer I read Mere Christianity. I opened to the inside back cover of my journal, and I wrote, “Rules to Live By.” I already longed for wisdom, and I asked God for it daily. I had been paying attention to what happened—both to me and around me. For those couple of months, I thought back over my life. I tried to see where God was working. I thought about the spiritual relevance of everything.
People are more
important than plans.
By the end of the summer, I had three rules. The first one was this: People are more important than plans. Maybe you’re thinking, “Duh!” But to this Type A, first-born, compulsive list-maker, who would do whatever it took to tick that last task off the day’s to-do list, such a simple sentence both convicted and challenged me. In not-so-many words, God told me to prioritize the people in my life over the plans/tasks/lists/projects/obligations.
I haven’t always heeded my own rules, including this one.
Generosity of time means we prioritize people, we permit ourselves to be interruptible, and we practice patience. Generosity of time says …
“That’s okay. I can wait.”
“Sure, I have time to talk right now.”
“What day and time are good for you?”
“Do you want to stay for dinner?”
“This can wait. Let’s talk now.”
“I’ll check my phone later.”
Jesus told a story about a man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho. The one-and-only road between the two cities, it was treacherous and frequented by robbers. (I learned this when I researched my previous post about Zacchaeus.) The man was attacked, beat up, robbed, and stripped. I imagine he was virtually unidentifiable, and on his own, he had no means of recovery. Perhaps the vultures were already circling overhead.
The road was rather narrow, and the man made no move to hide himself, that is, if he was even conscious. When he heard footsteps coming toward him, his desperate mind celebrated even if he couldn’t move or cry out. But twice, someone passed him without stopping.
Perhaps they were too busy. Maybe…
- One had an important appointment waiting at his destination.
- One didn’t even notice the injured man because he was deep into a game of Candy Crush® on his phone.
- One thought the injured man was someone else’s problem and why wasn’t the government doing something about the situation?
- One had enough of a mess in his own life and just didn’t want to get mixed up in someone else’s issues.
You? Yeah, me too.
Finally, someone slowed his donkey, stopped, and bent down to investigate. The injured man didn’t care that his rescuer was a Samaritan. (For more on the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, click here.) This Samaritan man took oil and wine from his own travelling provisions, treating and bandaging the injured man’s wounds right there on the side of the road. He lifted the near-lifeless man onto his own donkey and led it slowly to an inn. He spent the night taking care of the injured man, then made arrangements for the remainder of his care.
Don’t you think this Samaritan man had places to go and people to see, just like the other two?
Don’t you think he had planned his route and provisions to meet his own needs?
Don’t you think people were waiting for him, expecting his arrival?
Don’t you think he could have used that money for something closer to home?
The Samaritan man made room
in his life to help a stranger.
Among the many things Jesus was saying with this parable, He gave us a model of generosity.
The sense of loving neighbor means continual action, not something to check off the to-do list. The Samaritan’s offering the innkeeper what amounts to a blank check fits within Jesus’s overall concern for generosity. -Amy-Jill Levine, Short Stories by Jesus.
3 Elements to Generosity of Time
Jesus’ generous Samaritan man helps us begin to understand a generosity of time. Consider these thoughts on increasing our generosity in this area.
- Let’s put down the task so we can entirely focus on the immediate conversation.
Let’s be completely
present in the moment.
2. Let’s be completely present with the person/people in front of us, not checking our phones or getting distracted by unimportant things around us.
Permit Ourselves to be Interruptible
3. Let’s leave room in our schedule for opportunities. (They will look like interruptions if we haven’t synced our hearts with the Holy Spirit recently.) Then, if nothing arises, we can use the extra time for some Sabbathing.
4. Let’s stop feeling obligated to anything other than God. I’d like to get comfortable with being late or rescheduling when the Holy Spirit “mucks up” my well-thought-out itinerary.
5. Let’s not cut conversations short because we have somewhere else to be, because we’re bored, or because the person just won’t get to the point. (I get so impatient with people who talk around the point!)
6. Let’s take as much time as the other person needs, not as much time as we think we have to give. (See these biblical examples for more on giving what’s needed.)
I’ve said this in the past, but it bears repeating here. The only thing Americans guard more closely than their wallets are their watches. God calls me to open my wallet and my door; now He’s adding my watch (Does anyone still wear those?) or my planner (Does anyone still use those?)–for the work of the Holy Spirit.
Has God led you to be more open with your plans and schedule? What was the result? Is there something above that you want to implement soon? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
I LOVE both of these related blog posts by others!