Hope, Jacob and Samuel…more precious than gold

One week ago, we posted the blog Lord of the Rings.  Two days later, on Saturday, Bryan and Andrea Thiele wrote a blog.

For a little background, they have 4 biological children, 2 adopted, and are in the process of adopting 3 orphans– Hope, Jacob & Samuel– from Ethiopia.   Yes, that will be a total of nine! Hope, Jacob and Samuel are soon to learn that their little lives are more precious than gold. (http://thielestidbits.blogspot.com)thiele-rings

Here’s the Thiele’s story:

Yesterday was a day filled with surprises, emotions, tears, humbleness & thankfulness. It was a day that I am sure I will not forget.

My dear friend sent me an update to her blog. The title read “Would you give your wedding ring away to save a life?”  The minute I saw the title, I did something very godly.  I shut it off!!! I wasn’t going to read that; I didn’t want to be convicted, nor did I feel my wedding ring needed to be a part of this equation. I have already given SO much Lord!

Later I was burdened to read the post and returned to the screen once again, against my better judgment. It read something like this:carrying-water-in-uganda

This picture at right is real. The girls are real. It’s not posed or photo-shopped. It was taken a few weeks ago in Uganda by friends of ours. The girls are real, and they are eternal.

The picture of the diamond rings above are also real. But they are not eternal.  They can be lost, stolen, or lose their value, and will definitely be left behind when we leave planet earth.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:18

This is where the surprise comes in. I was not expecting what came next.  My friend featured a ministry called With This Ring. A lady was challenged with the question “What can you do to change the world?” The only thing she could think of was to sell her wedding ring. She had a world of wealth on her finger. She did just that. Then she donated her money to a ministry that was digging wells in Africa, to save the lives of the villagers.

After I looked at her web site carefully, I was convicted beyond conviction. (With this Ring has a short video well-worth watching.)

This is what the Lord showed me.

“Andrea, you have challenged all your friends and some strangers to give like they have never given before (to raise money for the adoption). Are you willing to give what I ask you to?”  I felt like he was saying “Andrea, I am going to bless you, but first I want you to be obedient.”

Now in all honesty, please hear me, this HURT. I love my rings, they are priceless to me. They symbolize so much. I love my husband, he gave me these rings! I DID NOT WANT to give my rings away. Then this question was posed “would I give them if I knew my own children were starving, or in need of water or in need of….”? Of course I would!! All of God’s people are eternal, not just mine.

I began to cry. I knew that the Lord was calling me to something that was going to cost. I believe he calls us all to something that costs; we are just not used to hearing that part of his voice. Cost HURTS! Sure I have been giving of my “first fruits”: I had given my grandmother’s diamond solitaire. I had gathered lots of gold that I didn’t wear and that I could part with.  BUT this was different.

I called Bryan and asked him what he thought and honestly, his first reaction was “you are not selling your rings.”  See, to Bryan they are VERY important, for the same reasons, but even more so. He had to get off the phone and told me he would call me back later.

I prayed. Once he called me back, I told him the whole story and his response was wonderful. “Andrea, we must be obedient.  That is what we are called to do.  We will not tell God no!”  He asked me how I felt, and I told him that my flesh said NO, and my spirit said yes. He said, “Well, then tell your flesh to SHUT UP!!”

Yesterday, I took both of our wedding rings (the very top picture) along with ALL my other priceless jewelry of my mom’s and grandma’s to our jeweler.  I thought that my rings would cause me the most grief, but I was wrong. I held so many memories in my mom’s jewelry. I was wrestling with God– this was more then I wanted to give up. I sat with tears streaming down my face as I watched the jeweler look and assess all of my precious jewelry. I felt foolish as I cried, but the tears were real, not fake. I was giving up so much of my mom and me.

My jeweler finally looked at me, as I am sure he was feeling uncomfortable, and I told him simply “I am selling my possessions, according to scripture, to give to the poor.”  I told him I know it may sound crazy, but that is what I am doing. I told him I am crying because it costs, and some of this was my moms. After a while he offered me a price– not as much as I could get if I sold them all myself– but he promised me they would not move on e-bay the way I would like them to. I accepted the price.

Due to security issues, a photo of the Thiele's children is not allowed to be released.  This is a photo of other Ethiopian children.

*see photo disclaimer

THEN GOD happened!! The jeweler was speechless.  He leaned back in his chair, put his head back and laughed a nervous laugh. He said ” I can’t believe you are doing this, what do I say to this?”  I didn’t know what he was talking about, because I hadn’t said anything. Then he said, “The Lord told me, I need to give you MORE.”  “How do you argue with God?” he asked.

“MORE”? He did just that!! THEN I told him my story–about the orphans we’re adopting from Ethiopia and how we’re raising money for the adoption!! He loved it, he quoted some scripture to me about our treasures, and told me that none of this was worth anything in God’s Kingdom!!

Okay, not to drag this on. But I gained a little perspective. I was mourning the loss of MY Possessions. Possessions, that if I had died in a car crash on the way to the jewelers, I would have left all behind. I WAS SELFISH, I WANTED MY STUFF MORE THAN I WANTED MY GOD AND OBEDIENCE. I can’t believe it! I needed to ask for forgiveness.

I am still married.  The ring is only a symbol. I think it is far MORE romantic, especially on Valentine’s Day, that we have both given up our rings in the Name of Christ and have in invested in something that moth and rust will not destroy!! Also, my mom’s memories are in my heart, not in a piece of jewelry. My mom sits with JESUS.  She was probably the biggest advocate of giving it away, because she sees with eternal eyes!!

Friends, WE HAVE the means, the tools and the money to supply those who are dying, who are diseased, who are hungry, who thirst, who are in prison, who are fatherless.  God has GIVEN to us SO GRACIOUSLY. Let’s not sit back and watch or talk about it.  LET’S DO IT TOGETHER!! Will you ask God how he wants you to serve Him today to further His kingdom!!

Yesterday, I mourned the loss of earthly possessions.

Today I am “Ringless in Christ.”

*****************************************************************************

The Thiele’s post elicited a number of responses. First, let me clarify that we and the Thieles are wearing simple rings to indicate we’re married.  An inexpensive ring at Kohl’s or Penny’s is about $5.

Portions of two of the responses are included below.

Andrea, I have a confession to make…  When I got your email about selling your rings, I truly thought to myself that you’d lost it.  I so appreciate your heart and the beautiful way that you respond to God’s call, but I thought that perhaps you’d finally gone a tad too far.  However, I was chided during my pastor’s sermon this morning.  Not only are you doing exactly what God would desire, you are doing it with grace and humility.

What my pastor said came from the Sermon on the Mount.  There is the verse where Christ says if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two…  Part of what he said was, “If God asks you to give Him something to further His Kingdom, give above and beyond.  All this stuff that we’d hold on to is His anyways, and will perish with the earth.”

Here’s another response from a different perspective:

Are you suggesting to sell the ring for money to send missionaries? Why not sell your car, or your television? Why sell anything when you could just send a check or make a commitment to give an ongoing monthly amount to fund a work?

In our culture, wedding rings signify “taken,” and in our church-culture it signifies that a divine covenant exists between God and the married couple.

I do think that people spend way too much on wedding rings, but then the argument could be made that if they are actually worth something, they provide some measure of security in case there comes a day that you need money to survive.

I am not terribly impressed when I hear people say that God spoke to them, and with the specificity of doing something as odd as selling the symbol they held up before Him when they said their vows.

RESPONSE:

This culture is a culture about wedding rings. We are also a culture about fornication, and drugs, and freedom to get to heaven anyway we want to. That doesn’t mean I am going to follow our culture.

We are wearing rings–we are just selling the ones that could feed an African family for almost 8 years.  There is nothing biblical about rings. They are not mentioned in the Bible to fully be committed to your spouse or God.

Why not sell our cars or our TVs?? That is a great idea. What makes that better than a ring or not?  If someone is convicted to sell their car and doesn’t do so, then it is a sin, plain and simple.

The idea that rings may provide some measure of security in case there comes a day that we would need money to survive is not biblical. (Matthew 6:25-33)

God give and takes.

He challenges Job on that very thing. He poses the question to Job, in Job 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you know so much”….read on. Job was blessed by God with riches beyond riches and that gold ring (figuratively) did not help when the Lord allowed Satan to take it all away.  There was no rainy day, so sorry you lost ALL of your riches and ALL of your family, good thing you held on to that golden ring, ring!!!

David says in I Chronicles 21:24 “I will not sacrifice an offering that costs me nothing”.  Anyone can give from their abundance– even the pagan. That is NO great act.

What God calls for is our “first fruits”, not our leftovers. If your “first fruits” is selling your car, then sell it, if it is your TV, then sell that. If it is your diamond ring, then sell it, (and then go get a cheap one or just tie some string around your finger).

If we, as the body of Christ, were all giving of our “first fruits”, we wouldn’t be watching people die all over the world from common, easily cured diseases. There would be NO caste system, the orphans and widows would not be alone, fatherless or family-less. God says that he has given us much so that we can give much. 2 Cor 8:14 We are “blessed to be a blessing”– Abraham’s covenant.  There are plenty of scriptures that tell us to sell our possessions and give to the poor.Luke 12:33; Acts 2:45 There is nothing that excludes wedding rings.

Our God is the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He spoke to Moses, He spoke to Abraham, He spoke to Samuel.  He can also speak to you and me.

*Due to security issues, photos of Hope, Jacob and Samuel are not allowed to be made public until the adoption is complete.  This photo is of other Ethiopian children.

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