11For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”Luke 14:11, 13-14
Counting is so important in our lives and most of the time we don’t even know we are doing it. Whether we are counting how much money we have in the bank or we are considering what our neighbors think about us. Even before we dress for the day we consider what people will think about us if we wear certain clothes, or we consider what our neighbors might think about us if we don’t bring in our empty garbage can after the city dumps it’s contents into their truck. We are continually counting something. Why do we value our neighbor’s opinion of things so much? Is it because we have a general idea that there is not enough money, time, prestige, or recognition etc. to go around, and we want to make sure that we are the best, or we fit in, or we get our share of something? But what if there was more than enough to go around? What difference would that make in our mental counting and the way we treat others? What if we saw others not as competitors for scarce resources or valued opinions, but as partners who are charged by God to hand out the riches of God’s goodness and grace?
When I was growing up I was the youngest child in my family. We had a tradition that the youngest person in the family was “Santa’s helper” when it was time to open gifts. For several years I was the one who got to distribute all of the presents to the rest of the family. When I first started doing this I didn’t like it because I did not get to open my presents until I had given all the other presents out. But then, as I grew older it became one of the most enjoyable parts of our family Christmas celebration. And about the time I began to really enjoy giving out presents and watching everybody open them, I had to give up that role to a niece who was younger than me. What I had come to appreciate is the joy that comes when you are part of giving to others out of abundance. I think that’s what Jesus is wanting us to experience as children of God. He wants us to stop counting and measuring who gets the most and start giving and blessing others any way we can.
Jesus upsets the logic of a world which gives great importance to merit, honors and privileges. He focuses on giving loving care for others in the relationships in our families, at our work and socially. In the giving and not counting who gets what or how much, we receive blessings beyond what we can count. Perhaps he is asking us to see what it would be like to live into the freedom of not counting social prestige and simply be a giver to those around us, and particularly to those who do not often receive kindness. That has some great possibilities in our work place, our schools, and in those places where we volunteer, play sports or socialize. Jesus is asking us to look out for those who seem off the social charts and invite them to take an honored place in our lives. He invites us to a life free from the unnecessary constraints and burdensome worries of what everyone else thinks, and experience the joy of being “God’s helper” in handing out the abundant gifts of dignity and worth and value with which we have been blessed.
1. Can you think of any ways that you count on some form of prestige in your life and how important that prestige is to you?
2. How many of those ways do you think are important in God’s eyes?
3. How can you give to those who cannot return the giving to you?
4. What are the values upheld as important in the world around you? How do these words of Jesus challenge or affirm them?
5. In what ways does Via de Cristo teach us to give abundantly to others?
Rev. Sue Beall -National Lutheran Secretariat Spiritual Director