I used to think Jesus’ imperative to “give to anyone who asks” (Luke 6:30) was one of the least reasonable out of many unreasonable things he told his followers and hangers-on to do.
After all, as soon as I was old enough to get a driver’s permit I’d been cautioned by my betters not to be gullible or taken in by scam artists and since I’ve mostly lived in the city for the last twenty-five years I pretty well mastered that. For much of that time I walked down the street with the word “no” pocketed in my cheek like a cough drop. As much as I loved the guy selling steaks “so hot they cook themselves” out of his trunk a block away from Port Authority I wasn’t going to give him eye contact and when people go from car to car on the subway asking for change how are you supposed to know if they’re hungry or just want to go get drunk or more drunk?
Inconveniently, Jesus’ words about giving to everyone are part of the Gospel lesson every year on All Saints Sunday and unlike you, I’m forced to either preach on or around them. This mandatory Bible study has led me to the discovery that Scripture is like popcorn. You can sit the Bible on a shelf and ignore it forever and it will stay where you left it. But if you pour it out and turn up the heat, shaking it around and mulling it over, it pops.
One Saturday night while preparing a sermon, Luke 6:30 popped for me.
What if the point of giving to everyone who asks isn’t about getting sucked dry by the needs and wants of people and instead is about the act of giving itself? Could being prepared to sayyes instead of no make a person more available to God?
I’ve tested this theory out on the Columbus Drive turnpike ramp into Jersey City. At the light by Merseles Street there’s almost always someone with a wrinkled paper cup walking by the stopped cars hoping a commuter will roll down their window with some loose change. Instead of pretending to tune in a radio station I started giving money to the guy with the scraggly beard and the limp. After a few days I also gave him eye contact and asked him his name. Eventually, I stopped thinking about what he was going to do with the money and started thinking about him because he wasn’t just a guy; he was Tommy.
Do you wish God would show up a little more often? Try this:
When a three year old wants you to sit on the floor in your best business suit five minutes before you have to catch your train, say “yes”. When the old lady in your doctor’s waiting room starts bending your ear about her hip surgery let listening be your prayer for the day. When Jesus invites you to give to anyone who asks, take him up on it. You won’t run out of money and Jesus isn’t gullible; he’s Love with hands and feet. Just do the awkward, inconvenient things he says to do and I guarantee God will show up.
Grace Church Van Vorst’s stewardship season comes to an end this Sunday and as I see it you have a few options: You could say “maybe next year” to making a pledge because you’re still “test driving” the church or you don’t think you have enough to give to make it worth filling out a pledge form . Alternately, you could be pragmatic and step up to pay your fair share of the church bills. Or you could begin unlearning “no” as a default setting for engaging the world and try out replacing it with “yes”.
If your pledge was your first “yes” to God in 2018, could it snowball? I’d be excited to hear about what you’d say “yes” to Jesus about next.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!