Obeying Jesus with My Cookies
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” (Luke 16:10, NLT)
Ask my parents: when I was a kid, I was not opposed to sharing– except when it came to food.
Every night, I’d sit down at the kitchen table, turn on some cartoons, and indulge in a snack time before going to bed. And when punishments for bad behavior were in order, I’d rather be spanked than have my snack time taken from me.
Snack time was one thing that I was real and serious about, and because I had parents that were trying
to teach me portion control at a young age, my usual snack was three, neatly stacked Oreos and a glass of milk. If anyone wanted one of those precious pieces of bliss, they’d have to pry them from my cold, dead child hands. It didn’t matter if you were my best friend, my brother, or the guy that bought them, once those three Oreos were put on a napkin in front of me, you could bet those three would be consumed. I was not messin’ around.
Fast forward to 2015. I was on a study abroad turned missions trip in South Africa, a season in my life where I learned big lessons about the amount of privilege I was blessed with as a white, American Christian from a middle-class family. You see, in South Africa, the unemployment rate is high– a little over 25%– and whether I went to the grocery store on the corner, the city center, or down by the beach, there was a definite chance of running into a homeless person looking for a few rands.
During that time, I learned big lessons in discernment. I had to rely on my inner voice constantly to figure out when I could help someone and how much I could spare. I had to learn to say no to a lot of people and bless those that the Holy Spirit nudged me to. Since then, most of those encounters have faded into the background noise of my many memories from there.
But one of these exchanges stands out in my mind. One afternoon, I headed out to the grocery store that was two blocks away from my dorm room. By that point, I had grown used to the routine of things, and I knew an alternate route that would let me bypass the crowd of people begging for money on the footpath to the entrance.
As I was walking up to the store, I saw two boys waiting outside. They were familiar to me because they hung out here often. As I passed them, they asked me if I had anything to spare, and true to my New Yorker reputation, I apologized and continued on my way.
I went into the food store and picked up the quick things that I needed. On my way to the register, I went down the cookie aisle. One of my friends from home recommended a certain brand of cookies only found in South Africa and insisted that I had to try them. Excited by the prospect of a new favorite snack, I made my purchase and headed back home.
On my way home, I passed the boys, admittedly brushed them off, and continued on my way. As soon as I rounded the corner and was out of their sight, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “You don’t need those cookies.”
And of course, my natural instinct was to ignore it. God knew my personal rule to never share my cookies.
But then I heard it again, “You don’t need those cookies you just bought.”
My still, small voice was clearly not going away. I immediately started bargaining in my mind: “But they’re always there. They probably get things from people every day. I’ve already passed them. Cookies aren’t going to be of any nutritional value to them,” and on and on and on. By that point, I realized that I’d stopped on the sidewalk and probably looked insane.
And then, I knew. It wasn’t about the cookies or that they won’t nourish their bodies. It didn’t matter who gave them what before I passed them. It didn’t even matter that I have a personal policy since birth to never share cookies. What does matter is that my obedience was being tested, even if it was something so small? If I couldn’t be trusted to obey His command on handing over a package of cookies to two boys that spent their days outside of the local food store, then I couldn’t be trusted to obey the larger commands that laid ahead in the future.
Because that’s the way obedience works: You don’t get to pick and choose when it might be convenient to obey. You don’t get to choose which commands to comply with, and delayed obedience is still disobedience. From the day we ask Jesus to come into our hearts, our obedience is tested.
Sometimes we fail, but thankfully, the Lord knows to start small. As much as we might want, we can’t reach for the full breadth of our purpose on day one; it’s something we have to work and train ourselves for.
And the accumulation of all these small acts of obedience adds up to receiving larger commands from the Lord. So, it only makes sense that if you’re hungry for the big things that God has for you, you have to start putting in the work with the little, seemingly meaningless things before you can get the bigger, more weighty commands that come along with your purpose.
And so whether it was a day of maturing for me, or whether I’d completely lost my mind, I broke one of my rules.
I turned around, walked right back to those boys, and gave them the package of cookies. And those kids looked like they were going to explode from joy. I threw in a God bless, and before turning the corner, I watched one boy carefully hand the other three cookies, before he also took three.
Maybe that’s just the magic number when it comes to cookies.