When someone openly coughs or sneezes in your general direction, do you consider that impolite? This past week, over Thanksgiving and the weekend, I had a not-fun cold that I really didn’t want to share with anyone else, because it is the gift the keeps on giving, even when you don’t want to. Someone gave it to me, and I felt obligated to pass it on, not. At some point, you have to make a call whether or not you should go to the store, and then whether or not you are well enough to go back to work and rejoin ‘normal’ society. Granted, I spent hours raking, hauling leaves, wood, and garbage on Saturday, then hours shoveling snow for my Winter workout on Sunday and Monday, so I felt well enough to work, just not with other people. Whether we intend to or not, we may share a cold or virus with others, even if we try to limit our exposure. Our words, attitudes and enthusiasm, good or bad, may even be as equally contagious. What do you pass on to others and what do you keep to yourself?
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32
I always thought of this verse from Acts as the Christian ideal of how to live with others in community. Not to the degree of a society of communism or socialism, because historically (e.g. USSR, N Korea, China) they try to exclude most religious practice from the ranks of the populous. It would almost have to be a small community, where everyone lived by similar guidelines, like the Christian faith, but with people involved, there are bound to be exceptions and instances where love is not the primary motive. For nearly a decade, I had a VW Jetta that became a communal car that I shared and let others use on probably over 10 different times. Sometimes it was to a friend or co-worker who needed a vehicle for a few days while theirs was being repaired, and once for the whole Summer to a college student named Oscar from Estonia, who put thousands of miles on it. Each time, if we didn’t stipulate a timeline for how long it would be loaned, it was assumed indefinitely, until I had to ask for it to be returned after a few weeks, not always in the same shape it was loaned. The last time it was loaned was a couple years ago to a fellow who was driving 125 miles back and forth to Des Moines for work each day. He was driving back after a snow storm and made it within 4 miles of home when he went into a ditch, and hit another car in the ditch totaling the VW, and the car-share program was over for that car. I’ve shared other vehicles since, but not to the degree that this one was used. Do you treat things you borrow with the same respect as other things you own?
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. Proverbs 15:1-2
We can share good things in the form of money, time, kind words, and knowledge, just as easily as we share bad things in the form of harsh words, gossip, bad advice, and video games. The things we have, or can buy, are not always the best gifts to give to others. We have been having discussions for a while about a concept called Redemptive Compassion, which proposes that simply giving money or things to those in need, is not always what is best for them. Often, they need help to get out of difficult situations, and skills to work and become more self-sustaining. The way to get there is not always through an outer transformation of ‘getting their act together’, but often from an inner transformation of a changed heart through the work of Christ, which then gives them hope to transform the outer parts of their lives. When we are able to share time and knowledge with others who need that from us, it is often more helpful than just giving them what they think they need and wishing them well. We invest considerable time, money and energy into our own children, and hope that we have done well, with no guarantees for what will result. Have there been any things you have received that have been more valuable than you originally thought?
The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it. Psalm 89:11
In my experience, the closer I am to God, the more willing I am to share and give what I have to others in need, and the further I am from God’s heart, the more selfish I become. It’s just a general rule that I have seen more often than not, which is more of a gauge for what my spiritual life is like. So, whether you are thinking of giving good gifts to others over the next month, or just looking for something to give that will make a difference, also consider what being a good steward and giving things away does to you. Each time I give away money, things, time, or helpful knowledge to others, it often helps my heart in more ways than it helps others. I am always reminded that none of these things I currently possess will be mine forever, nor will they make a difference unless they are used to benefit others. We may not always get it right, but we will never get it right unless we try. May you be blessed as you share the most valuable gifts, including the saving knowledge of Christ with others.
Yours in Christ,