Give A Man A Fish
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Keep giving that man a fish and you’ve enabled him for a lifetime.” Brent Henderson
One of my favorite pastimes is hand-catching Alaskan salmon. There’s something about being able to reach down into a cold rushing stream and pull them out with your bare hands that’s incredibly rewarding.
While leading a small group of men on a mission’s trip in Alaska, I took them on a 2 ½ mile hike to the Russian River Falls. This is one of my favorite spots on the planet. As hundreds-of-thousands of salmon make their way upstream to give their life for the next generation, they have to put the brakes on when they come to difficult obstacles like waterfalls. As these large nutritious fish wait their turn to navigate up the falls, they are vulnerable, not only to bears and eagles, but guys like me who love to catch them…just because I can.
Locating and catching salmon by hand is not an easy task unless you have someone teaching you who knows how to hold on to these slimy buggers. The phrase “slippery as an eel” would definitely apply here. My friends watched me slowly slide my left hand below their tail, then slowly moving my right hand under their belly. Once my hands were positioned under the salmon, I could simply lift them right out of the water. You don’t grab them from the top, only the bottom as they are used to rubbing against rocks below. The only things touching them from the top probably aren’t good for them, and want nothing more than to make them into a tasty meal. That’s an important lesson to teach a man who is going to be spending any length of time in the outback. It can take time for him to become proficient, but can mean the difference between life and death if he is ever stranded in the wilderness.
When I was a kid, my father used to have me hold the flashlight in our dark basement while he would solder a pipe, or start the pilot light in the furnace if it happened to go out. As he did this, he would explain to me what he was doing each step of the way. Once he was done, he would have me pass him the flashlight so he could hold it for me as he instructed me what to do. He didn’t just tell me, he taught me how to do it. This was so I could learn to be self-sufficient, and to be able to one day pass on what I’ve learned. During some of those lessons, he would take the time to talk to me about God, how He wanted to have a relationship with me, and how I could trust Him no matter what.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Something that many of us struggle with is that we don’t want to take the time to teach someone how to fish, theoretically. We keep giving them the fish (money, gift cards, rides, even empathy), because taking the time to teach them how to grow forward can be inconvenient, so we keep enabling them to stay dependent on us by giving them the very thing they need to learn to be doing on their own. Sometimes it’s because teaching them does take time and can be inconvenient. But, sometimes it’s because we want them to be dependent on us. It makes us feel like we’re needed, like we’re important to them. It can also be something that we hold over their head to attempt to manage or control the relationship. None of those reasons are healthy. Teaching someone does take time, but can cut the ties of neediness and dependency. That’s a good thing!
Jesus instructed us to go and make disciples. It wasn’t a request, it was a command. He set the example wherever He went. He met the needs of others, the hungry, the thirsty, the broken, the hurting, the downtrodden, and those seeking His Father’s face. Even more importantly, He taught us how to pray. He showed us how to communicate with the only one who could and would meet our needs, no matter the obstacle. It took time, and Jesus faced incredible obstacles. Just like salmon find their way back to where they were given life and to now give life, His purpose was to sacrifice His life to bring new life, to show us the way home. We are called to go and do the same. (Matthew 28:19-20)
The most important gift my father gave me didn’t come through teaching me how to solder a pipe or light the furnace. He loved God, and he lived it. He didn’t enable me. He taught me and equipped me. And maybe the greatest lesson was in my father giving me the gift of his time. His investment in me answered one of my deepest questions: “Am I worth your time?” You see, in the eyes of a child…love is spelled, T.I.M.E.
Love like that.
. . . “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”
Where in my life is this verse connecting right now, and what is the Holy Spirit showing me?