Last night saw the final of the new TV quiz programme, The Bank Job. The competition had lasted all week, and the winners from each of the five previous programmes gathered to see who could win the grand prize of over £140,000. Soon the three tense preliminary rounds gave way to the final’s final round. Only two young men were left; but the final round had a twist!
No longer were there any questions. Each young man was given half the prize money stored in a small metal suitcase. They were also given an identical suitcase each, filled with newspapers, and were allowed to secretly check the contents of their own two cases. They then had to choose one of their cases to give to their opponent. If they both decided to give away their case filled with newspaper, they would not be allowed to keep anything, but if they both gave away their case of money, they would be allowed to keep what was given, just over £70,000 each. However, if one gave newspaper and the other gave money, the one receiving the money would be allowed to keep it plus the case of money he had kept for himself, a prize totalling over £140,000.
What would each man do? One of them begged the other one to share, saying how much the money would mean to him and his family. The two suitcases were exchanged and placed in front of the cameras. What was in each suitcase? The cases were opened. Both contained … newspaper! Both had hung on to their money hoping to have the whole prize fund for themselves, but being unwilling to share, they had both lost. Their greed had brought them nothing; instead the prize fund was shared out between the three losing finalists, who each received almost £50,000.
As Jesus once said, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full —pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give to others will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:37-38)
How many of you have watched the TV programme Secret Millionaire? Each programme focuses on a real millionaire, who leaves his or her luxury home and family for ten days, and moves to a rundown urban area. While living alone and incognito in a very basic house, they spend their time volunteering with three local charities. Often they find themselves caring for the sick or feeding the hungry, supporting needy children or comforting the bereaved. At the end of ten days, they reveal their true identity to the charities and to needy individuals, and give away thousands of pounds (or dollars) of their own money. Many of the charities they help are struggling financially, and the millionaire’s gift is often the lifeline they need to survive.
It struck me recently that this is the very essence of Christmas. Approximately two thousand years ago – but not in December – the Creator of the universe left behind the riches of His spiritual home, to live a basic life incognito, while he healed the sick and fed the hungry, welcomed the children and comforted the bereaved (by bringing their dead back to life). At the end of His time here, He gave the most expensive gift anyone could give. He gave His own life to pay the debt we all owe to our Creator. None of us has lived a perfect life; no one has a totally clear conscience – except Yeshua. So out of His immense love for us, He took our place to buy our forgiveness and secure our future. As Rabbi Sha’ul of Tarsus (the apostle Paul) wrote, “You know the generous grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty could become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Following the filming of the TV programmes, rather than abandon their charities, many of the millionaires return to provide help and support on an ongoing basis. In the same way Yeshua calls us into an ongoing, loving relationship with Himself. He promises “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)