Walking down the narrow street that leads from the internet café back to the Paradise Hotel in Taung Gi township, I pull up abruptly in front of one of the iron gates that line the sidewalk. Twisted among the bars of this particular gate is a small plastic bag, squeezed off with a twister tie. It is filled with a thin, murky liquid in which floats what might be small bits of meat and vegetables.
What is this garbage that hangs from the courtyard gate of one of the more well-to-do households in this small Southeast Asian community?
Early that same morning, I was awaken by the monotonous, repetitive clang of a bell and the mournful chanting of a solitaire denizen of the pre-dawn streets. As I lay shivering in the mountain air wishing I’d pulled the window shut before retiring the night before, I followed the wailing with my ears as it moved closer and closer, then faded away into the distance.
Why was anyone roaming the streets and making such a racket at this unfashionably early hour?
Long-robed Buddhist monks serpentine through the crowded streets of Yangon, their saffron robes brilliant in the morning sun. Each carries a bowl in cupped hands, outstretched from the waist. As passersby approach, they place small parcels of soup, meat and vegetables into the monk’s bowl.
The outstretched bowls, the pre-dawn chanting, the plastic bags dangling from courtyard gates—these are all a part of the alms-round for the Buddhist monk who has nothing to eat other than the gifts of food that are collected in the early morning hours.
What might appear at first glance to be a strange—if not completely unhealthy—practice among the Buddhist might actually be a spiritual blessing for all involved.
To the monk, the ongoing continual teaching is that he can never depend on Self to provide for all his needs. This is also the lesson we would do well to learn. Our daily provision comes not merely through our personal efforts and skill, it comes from the Lord. It is His grace that sustains us from day to day, and not our work alone.
To the one who gives, there is a responsibility to see that the monks are healthy and well-fed. It’s a hear-see-participate reminder that God uses the ordinary person to provide for those that serve. The saffron robes and alms bowls that are visible just about everywhere, the mournful wailing up and down the streets outside the window as one sleeps, and the tying up of one’s own little parcel of food before sitting down to partake of the meal—these activities take the eyes off Self and focus instead on the One we serve.
It might be good if we were to adopt a similar practice here in America. A lot is gained from continual giving as opposed to writing out a check once a week, or once a month. Instead of just a periodic reminder of our relationship with God, we have a daily, constant focus on serving Him.
Jesus taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Constant giving changes the heart. Can you imagine the benefits we would see around the world if Christians everywhere took upon themselves the responsibility of supporting their preachers, teachers and other minsters of the Gospel?
God is good and multiplies our efforts a hundred-fold. Together, we can change the world—He just wants to use us in whatever way we are willing.
As you work through this day, why not contemplate the ways in which you can serve the Lord by serving others. Do you know someone who needs food, clothing, companionship?
Now is the time to offer your body as a living sacrifice. Put yourself on the alter, helping God by helping others.