Ever know one of those people that carry around an arsenal of maybes? They’re the ones that when faced with a need rummage around in their purse or pocket or car and procure whatever is needed. Need a tissue, a nail clipper, a flashlight, a paperclip, a stick of gum, or something for the kids to do? They’ve got you covered. Why do they carry all that stuff around? You never know, maybe someone will need something.
One day Peter and John were walking to the Temple to pray. As it happened they passed by a beggar, a man crippled from birth who sat near the entrance. Unlike today when street beggars are suspect and we expect our tax dollars to take care of them, Jewish law and culture expected folks to help out others. Peter and John approached the beggar and demanded his attention. The beggar complied, thinking that Peter and John were going to drop a few coins into his purse. But Peter surprised the beggar with these words – “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6, NASB95) We are told that Peter pulled the man to his feet which were immediately healed. With an infectious joy, the beggar entered the temple walking and leaping and praising God.
I want to zoom in on Peter’s words – I do not possess…but what I do have I give to you. The beggar’s expectation was for a few coins; something to see him through, perhaps enough to buy a meal or two. Peter looked beyond the beggar’s expectation and responded to his greater need. What did Peter have? Peter had a lot of things, he had a bold character, he had the Holy Spirit as evidenced in the previous chapter of Acts, he was chosen by Jesus as an apostle, he had walked with Jesus and witnessed Him performing miracles. But none of those things can be given to another. What did Peter have that he could give away? Taking a cue from Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 I think that Peter had the same three things that all Christ followers have – faith, hope, and love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Faith – Peter’s faith may seem reckless at times like when he jumped out of a perfectly good boat to walk on the water. Likewise, Peter’s faith that God would heal the beggar may seem a bit reckless, a bit dramatic, as he spoke bold words in the view of many. Our exercise of faith may or may not be quite that dramatic. Faith requires that we believe God can do something and that He desires to do something in the situation in front of us. Faith doesn’t look at our ability but at God’s willingness and grace.
Hope – Hope extends way beyond wishful thinking. It recognizes the “what is” and sees the “could be”. Hope sees through the eyes of Christ. The beggar hoped for a few coins from the hand of Peter and John. But Peter’s hope saw an entirely different possibility. The beggar viewed his situation as hopeless that the best he could do with his lot in life was survive. Peter saw a completely different possibility, an entirely different outcome.
Love – Peter gave love. He acted on the need in front of him, perhaps remembering all of those times Jesus touched and healed through compassion. Love may be spoken, but action is required for love to be love. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” Love also risks. Peter put a lot of things on the line to say and do what we’ve read about. What if the beggar didn’t get healed? What would failure have done to Peter’s reputation? What effect would that have had on the fledgling church? I doubt that Peter calculated all of that – he wasn’t the type. Instead he simply acted, giving away what had been given to him. Giving love because he had received love.
What do you have? You may think that you don’t have what the need requires. (Be it our need, the need of someone near and dear, or the need of someone we just met.) The situation in front of you may be financially mountainous. The circumstance may be emotionally draining. What is broken may seem impossible to ever put back together again. Everything may seem hopeless, lost, and without any possibility of ever getting better. Like Peter, maybe your purse is empty and you simply don’t have the physical, emotional, or mental resources or abilities to meet the need. Yet, as followers of Jesus we all have something which seems small yet can move mountains – faith, hope, and love. The question is whether we will, like Peter, give it away to others in need.