Mary’s husband was unexpectedly deployed to Iraq. With six children ranging from 2 to 11 years old, her ward stepped in to help her out as much as possible in her husband’s absence. When the engine in Mary’s car gave out, a mechanic from the ward repaired it free of charge. Their home teacher helped with necessary repairs around the house, and many other details. Other members helped with giving the children rides to school and other activities.
Despite the challenge of having a husband in a war-torn area, unsure of when he would return, Mary felt as safe and taken care of as possible thanks to the love and service and charitable actions of people who genuinely loved her.
One day, Mary arrived home to see their driveway lined with boxes. She opened one, and saw it was full of clothes. Suspecting the others contained more of the same, she angrily loaded them all into her car, drove to her local Deseret Industries, and unloaded all the boxes there.
Some days later, Mary’s sister-in-law excitedly asked if she liked the clothes. Confused, Mary asked for some clarification. “My friend and I bought clothes for you and the children. There are some really nice things there, and we were so excited to give them to you!” the sister-in-law eagerly explained.
Mary confessed she had already turned around and donated the clothes to DI. “I don’t need your charity,” she said resentfully. “If I wanted clothes for our family, I would have gone to DI and gotten them myself.”
Layers of Meaning
As with all parables, there are layers of meaning to this one. Some themes I see are about charity, receiving gifts and help, and settling for second best when first best is right in front of you.
For example, some thoughts I’ve had about charity are about the definition of that word in more than simply the cultural meaning of “good works out of pity.” We know that charity is the type of love that Jesus had, and it’s the ideal we all strive for (see Moroni 7:45-47). But what about being charitable when we’re on the receiving end of charitable acts?
Jesus told us “…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40). If our actions toward other people set the precedence of how we would (theoretically or otherwise) treat Jesus Christ, I don’t believe it’s too audacious that to say to reject charitable acts is to reject Jesus Christ and anything He might give us.
Come Buy Without Price
As I pondered this story, the Spirit whispered to my own spirit, “Reject not the good gift.” What good gifts have I been given that I reject outright? Are there gifts that I have received from the Giver of all the best gifts that I have — knowingly or otherwise — rejected?
In fact, accepting the best gifts from the Savior is the key to our immediate progression and ultimate perfection. “…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing. Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:30–33).
To come unto Christ and accept His gifts is not only an invitation, it is a commandment.
I also heard, “…Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Nephi 26:25). There is no monetary value that can be placed on what Jesus Christ offers us. It is without price, but of infinite value.
President Hinckley said that we lose power in our lives when “…we discount the need for faith and disregard knowledge of the Lord. Passive acceptance is not enough. Vibrant testimony comes of anxious seeking.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Dimensions of the Spirit,” October 1964.)
I know there are definitely areas in my life where I can allow Jesus to enter more fully, rather than passively accepting him. In fact, I was reminded in a priesthood blessing the other day that it is not enough to rely on my own arm, but to let my Savior in.
Suddenly, the scriptures about relying solely on the “arm of flesh” took on a new dimension of meaning for me. It’s not just about overly relying on other people, it’s also about shaking the (false) belief that I can do everything on my own. I can’t. None of us can. We were never meant to, which is why we have a savior — someone to save us from ourselves.