I have never been an ‘only-child’. I was in the middle of five kids. There are many of you that may be the only- child, or were the only-child up until your parents brought home that younger sibling(s), and then had things change dramatically. No longer were you the center of attention. Now, we did raise an ‘only-child’, our son Ben, for four years until his sister Julie came onto the scene. So, I know what it is like to focus all of your parenting onto a single child. And, one of the primary reasons we had a second child was because we wanted Ben to have a sibling and experience all of the benefits of learning how to share the stage with someone else.
However, one of the potential downsides to any scenario with multiple beneficiaries is that they will always be the opportunity to ‘keep score’. Every parent of multiple kids will hear at least one time in their lives that something is not ‘fair’. That little Jimmy got more dessert than his sister Mary. Or, how come my older brother got the new clothes and I was stuck with the hand-me-downs? Well, we soon learn as we mature, that life is not fair, and if you are taking the time to keep score there is a strong probability that you will be disappointed. Our expectation of fairness is largely driven by the democratic culture that we foster here in America, which ironically, has the largest gap between the wealthiest and poorest citizens in the world. There is a lot of score keeping here, with most of us trying to make sure that we get what we believe we are entitled.
Step back and now put that in the context of our relationship with God and you begin to understand what Grace is all about. God has offered us communion with Him in eternal Paradise. And through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross, we need do nothing but accept the offer. How fair is that? If God were keeping score, I am pretty sure that Heaven would have a lot of vacancies. Or to put it another way, if we truly did get what we deserved, most of us would be in trouble. So why is it that we tend to put conditions on how we bestow our own favor when it comes to those who need it? Why do we hesitate to give the homeless guy on the street a buck or two because we think he should be out there looking for a job? Why do we separate ourselves from the less ‘desirable’ segments of society sometimes because we think ‘they are getting what they deserve’? (This is where that old saying, ‘There, but for the Grace of God, go I’ sticks it to us.) We learn from Jesus Christ Himself that there is only one requirement for the full receipt of God’s Grace, and it is that we not keep score, but give ourselves freely to all those in need (Matthew 25:34-40):
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
So with Thanksgiving this week and Christmas soon after, let’s remember this and make a habit to give freely to all our brothers and sisters in need, and in doing so give thanks to God for not giving us what we deserve. Peace to you all.