When an immigrant shop keeper’s son finished his Ivy League degree in business, he had a few weeks before beginning at a huge firm. Wanting to be useful, he showed up one day at his dad’s shop and asked if he could help with the bookkeeping. “Sure, go ahead,” his dad told him, gesturing to a cardboard box behind the counter.
The son took the box to the back room where he puzzled over the confusion of paperwork for several days, and when he finally emerged he was very distressed. “Dad, your records are such a mess that I can’t say whether you’re operating at a profit or a loss.”
“Oh, it’s definitely a profit,” his dad responded.
“But how can you say?” the son questioned.
“Because, when I came from the old country all I had was the clothes on my back, but look around at the items in this shop. And consider the house I raised you in, and the financial help I gave you with your education. I’m definitely operating at a profit,” he told his son.
I remember the day I decided to head off to seminary in Chicago, even though paying for it looked impossible. But while I was there, I became friends with Lester from Omaha, and one day, while crossing a bridge, I pointed to a rat running the river bank. “If you keep looking down,” Lester told me, “all you will see is the dirty filth and rats running the gutters, but if you’ll look up you’ll see the beauty of the sky, and the trees, and the birds building their nests. So, look up!”
I was learning that it mattered what I looked at, and remembered the Apostle Paul’s letter to a young man named Timothy. Paul warns Timothy to not put his hope in monetary wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put his hope in God, who richly provides everything necessary for an enjoyable life. Then Paul challenges Timothy “to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” In effect, Paul is telling Timothy to look up – at the things that really matter.
We arrive with nothing, but God is generous and he provides us with more than we need. So we learn to live generously, and it becomes our way of looking up – and we discover it is where all the beauty is found.