The warning didn’t stop there. She told us that a teddy bear cactus could actually leap toward us if we moved too close to it. My mind was spinning trying to envision this man-eating cactus that might attempt to chase me up the path. Apparently, this type of cactus has stems that disconnect quite easily. The spines have barbs that burrow into the muscle fiber and make it painfully difficult to remove. Needless to say, we spent our hike looking more closely for a loose teddy bear cactus stem than we did watching for rattlesnakes.
I’m grateful for the warning about the cactus and even more grateful for the warnings we find in scripture: “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs’” (Luke 12:1-3).
The danger of hypocrisy is how it can lead people astray. It can fool and blind those who are unable to discern. The teddy bear cactus appears to be soft and cuddly, but in reality, it is harmful to us. The Pharisees Jesus warned about were guilty of hypocrisy, and in His kindness, Jesus warned His followers.
Warnings found throughout scripture are there to guide and protect us. They are filled with God’s love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and blessing. Sometimes we hear warnings and choose to ignore them. Sometimes we disbelieve there’s true danger. But when we believe we are hearing a warning from God, we can focus on His nature and character. He loves and cares for us. He desires us to follow truth and not find ourselves at the hands of deception or a prickly, barbed cactus.
In order to strengthen our discernment muscles we can do two things: pray and read the Bible regularly. God delights in answering our requests to become greater discerners in a culture filled with competing ideas to Biblical truth. The more time we spend soaking in God’s Word, the more equipped we are to spot hypocrisy when it presents itself to us. We must be on our guard as Jesus warned us.
As I reflected back to our hike among the prickly teddy bear cacti, I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithful warning and protection. He kept me safe from a plant that appeared soft and cuddly but in reality would pierce my skin and cause severe pain. His heart is to keep us on the safe path. His “word is a lamp for our feet, a light on our path” (Psalm 119:105). On His safe path, we can trust that little by little we will see growth.
Memory Verse: “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.” 2 Peter 3:17 NIV
But his mind was made up. God prompted his young heart with generosity, and I knew he was ready to give fully and freely with no holding back.
In 1 Kings 17, God instructed Elijah to go to a widow whom He had commanded to provide for him during the time of famine. The widow was very poor and had nothing to give. She was preparing her last meal for herself and her son, and then she was prepared to die. When she explained her situation to Elijah, he responded to her, “Do not fear” (1 King 17:13). Her situation was scary. Fear was the natural response. If she gave what she had, which was nearly nothing, she would surely die.
When Elijah asked her for water and bread, we understand from her response that God had already prepared her heart for this interaction. We see from her obedience that God had worked in her heart as “She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family” (1 Kings 17:15). God prepared her to be generous, just like he did with my son.
The poor widow on the brink of death gave generously out of her faithfulness to God and His prompting of her heart, and the Lord multiplied her flour and oil.
Do you ever feel a nudge to give generously but wonder if what you have to offer is not enough to make a difference or it would deplete your supply? Maybe it’s your time, or money, a gift, or talent. Sometimes we can look at the little we have and feel we must hold onto it in case we need it. What if we volunteer our time and run out of time for our family? What if we offer to sponsor a child in need and lose our job?
Fear-based questions are natural. However, we don’t need to fear because God is the generosity generator. If God inspires our heart to give, we can trust Him to provide just like he did with the widow.
The year after God nudged my son to give generously to the children in Haiti, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti. It was the direct result of my son’s moved heart that took us so far from home. We were able to see first-hand how small offerings, such as the one my son gave, impacted the lives in the community we visited in enormous ways. We offer what we have, and God does the rest.
When our hearts are prompted, we can give fully and freely without holding back in fear. Friend, we can trust God will provide when He prompts our hearts because He is a generous Provider. Next time God prompts your heart, and you hear His still, small voice, listen and obey. Your faith will grow as you see God in action through your obedient generosity.
Memory Verse: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 NIV