Whatever You Can, Whenever You Can, For Whomever You Can

October 14, 2008

The story is told of a man walking along a beach in the early morning, In the distance ahead, he saw a boy repeatedly bending to the sand, standing up and then throwing something out into the surf. As the man approached, he was able to make out that the boy was picking up starfish that had washed up on to the shore and tossing them back out into the water.

When the man was close enough, he asked, “What ya doing?”

“I’m saving these starfish. The tide won’t come in this far until it is too late and these little guys will have dried out in the sun and died. So, I’m putting them back in the water.”

The man chuckled at this little boy’s naivete and responded, “Son, look at how long this beach is. You can’t even see the end of it. There are starfish all over this beach. You can never get them all back in time. And if you could, there will just be more tomorrow. You can’t spend your whole life trying to save starfish. What kind of a difference do you really think you can make?”

The little boy leaned over, scooped up a starfish and sent it sailing out into the waves. As he watched the splash die down, he smiled up at the man and said, “Made a difference to that one.” And he bent down again.

As I write this, we at the church in Franklin are focusing our month on good deeds. One of the big problems we might have is being overwhelmed. There are so many good deeds to do that we simply can’t do them all. There are so many that need our help spiritually, materially, emotionally, physically, we just can’t get to them all. If we spend too much time thinking about that, we might just shut down and wonder what kind of difference we can really make. Maybe we won’t make a huge difference the world over. But we can make a difference one person at a time.

Think about Tabitha in Acts 9:36-42. When Peter came into her room, the entire world wasn’t present. In fact, Christians from all over the world were not even present. In fact, Christians from two towns away were not even present. But the widows she had met were in the room. She didn’t try to do everything. She simply did what she could. She made clothes. She didn’t try to help everyone. She simply helped those she could; she helped widows. She didn’t wait for a congregational program. She didn’t wait for someone to tap her on the shoulder and tell her what to do. She simply did what she could, for whom she could, when she could.

Here is the intriguing thing to me about Tabitha. When James the apostle died, the saints mourned and simply buried him. When Stephen the evangelist and deacon died, the saints mourned and simply buried him. When Tabitha died, the saints mourned and said, “Peter, you have to do something about this.” And she was resurrected. Who is really the most important part of the church? Apostles? Evangelists? Shepherds? Deacons? Or the member who simply does good deeds?

I don’t agree with the theology of Mother Theresa, but she reportedly said: “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I cannot help everyone, but I can help someone.” That is a great slogan to remember. Don’t keep from helping someone just because you can’t help everyone. Don’t stop doing something just because you can’t do everything. Do whatever you can, whenever you can, for whomever you can.

What good deed will you do today?

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