Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 92; 149, Exodus 40:18-38, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, Matthew 5:38-48
Turn the other cheek. When sued for your cloak, offer your coat too. If forced to go one mile, go a second one. Give to everyone who begs from you. Loan to anyone who asks. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. In these teachings, Jesus is telling his followers, I know you know the minimum legal requirements, and that’s fine, but actually loving involves so much more
Who actually does these things – all or any of them – all the time?
Would it be unfair to say “Nobody?”
We spend a lot of effort justifying why we don’t do them, and throw around words like “enable” and “systemic” and “accountability.” We make our giving conditional on the perceived worthiness of the recipients. In the same passage Jesus tells us God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” If God is not doling out sunshine and rain based on merit, maybe we aren’t as qualified to make those distinctions as we’d like to believe. Resenting that our generosity is “wasted” on someone says more about our ego and need for control than it does about their worthiness.
Of course we should steward our resources wisely when battling systemic poverty and need, but that is not in opposition to the individual acts that Jesus promotes. Loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, and parting with our money are not just about helping other people: they are about perfecting the state of our hearts. Love is sacrificial. If our every act of generosity involves an intake evaluation and a cost-benefit analysis, we’re simply swapping one set of rules for another, creating divides between the clean and unclean. Since we are as dependent on God for our own gifts as we are for the sun and rain, should we really be acting as if we know better than God who does or does not deserve them? Love is humble. Jesus says so.
Ironically, selfless love has selfish benefits. As we learn to love unconditionally, we better understand just how much God loves us – worthy or not.
Comfort: You have God’s love, regardless.
Challenge: God expects you to love others, regardless.
Prayer: Loving God, may my love for others reflect your love for them also. Amen.
Discussion: Is your generosity ever tinged with resentment?
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