By love serve one another. Gal. 5:13.
In Persian legend, hell is a great banquet hall where the multitudes that have been consigned to perdition sit at a long table upon which a rich repast is spread. But each one there is chained in such a way that he cannot get the food to his mouth. And so the victims sit, with fleshless bones, enduring the terrible and endless gnawing of hunger while that which might satisfy their pangs is denied.
Exactly the same situation is found in heaven, according to the legend. There in a great banquet hall are those who have been found worthy of the delights of paradise. They also are chained in such a way that they cannot get to their mouths the delightful bounties on the table before them. But, instead of suffering the agonies of eternal starvation, each is well nourished and happy, for each has found that although he cannot bring the food to his own mouth, he can place it in the mouth of his neighbor. But those in hell, because they never learned to serve others while on earth, cannot now think to help their neighbors in perdition, and so they starve amid plenty.
The lesson of the legend is clear, and helps to illustrate the gospel truth that the law of life is the law of service.
We can have a foretaste of heaven's joys here if we learn and practice the lesson of sharing with others God's unique blessings.
"We die by living to ourselves. We live by dying to ourselves."
Use a large basket
The recompense of a man's hands shall be rendered unto him. Prov. 12:14.
A group of coolies had been hired by an Oriental farmer to bring in his grain harvest. All through the day each man carried one basketful after another on his head to the barn and emptied it into the bins.
As the sun was setting and the coolies made their way in with the last of the grain, each one was met at the barn door by the farmer, who said, "Don't empty this basket. It is your pay for the day."
Some of the coolies went happily home with their full baskets. Some others were not so happy. The happy ones had used large baskets all day. The unhappy ones had used small baskets.
Our reward at the end of life's day will be in proportion to the service we have rendered willingly and wholeheartedly to God and to our fellow men. If we serve grudgingly and of necessity it is an indication that we are using a small basket, and our reward will be correspondingly small. Indeed, we shall be in danger of losing the reward entirely.
But if we serve generously and heartily as unto the Lord we are certainly using a large basket. Then, at the end of the day we shall find that our reward will be of "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over" (Luke 6:38).
"As little children"
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said: Verily I say unto you, except ye be convened, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 18:2, 3.
The surgeon had been brought up in a Christian home, but gradually, as he was forced to look upon so much suffering, so many broken bodies, and so much death, his faith and belief in Cod died. How could God, a reputedly all-powerful, all-loving God, permit so many heart-rending tragedies as he was forced to witness, he thought. Why did He permit those four small children to be left motherless? Why did He allow that little girl to die as she did?
One day a blue-eyed, curly-haired boy of four or five was wheeled into the operating room to have a badly infected appendix removed.
"Well, sonny," the surgeon smiled, ruffling the blond hair, "we're going to take your pain away.
"You are! How are you going to do it?"
"You're going to go to sleep, and when you wake up the pain will be gone."
"But I'm not sleepy now. Look, the sun is still shining. It's not time to go to sleep."
"Never mind, you'll go to sleep, and then your pain will be all gone."
"Am I really going to sleep?"
At that the little lad climbed off the operating table and knelt on the floor of the operating room.
"Dear Jesus, the doctor says I'm going to sleep now. Please forgive all my sins, and keep me. And bless us, every one. Amen."
Then he climbed back onto the operating table and closed his eyes. Describing the incident to a friend in a letter later, the doctor wrote, "As I looked at the little boy there on the operating room floor, and as I listened to his simple, trusting prayer, I suddenly knew that there is a God, and the faith of my earlier days came back to me.
Are you honest?
Render therefore to all their dues. Rom. 13:7.
The honesty we have in mind has little to do with the usual connotation of the word "honest," for the question is prompted by the following little incident that I read some time ago. Norma Morris tells the story in the Australian magazine Health.
"'Mrs. Smith said you were the best laundress she ever had, Norah,' we remarked as dainty muslins were taken from the sack.
"'Did she ma'am?' The woman looked up for a moment, but her face expressed no particular pleasure at the praise. Then it was to myself she should have said it, long ago, but she never did. During the months I worked for her she never said if things pleased her or not. She just looked at them and said nothing. I'd do my best for her, but all the time I did it with the feeling that she wasn't satisfied. I thought she was an honest woman.'
"'Honest, Norah?' we questioned. 'Why, she paid you, didn't she?'
"'She paid the money, ma'am; but if she liked my work, it was no more than my dues for her to say so,' was the answer. 'But she kept that back!'"
When Paul wrote the words of our text he was not thinking of appreciation and praise. But in our context we believe we are not amiss if we so apply it. Paul would say that the one who failed to render his just and legal dues to his government was dishonest. Is one who fails to return proper appreciation for services rendered dishonest?
Let us now consider a few specific questions: Do mother and father know we appreciate what they are doing for us? Do we who are parents let our children know we appreciate the little things they do for us? And husbands, have you told your wife lately how much you enjoy her cooking? Wives, does your husband know you are grateful for the help he gives around the house? And how about all those other people who work with and for us? Do they receive the appreciation that may be their rightful due?