Sharing. This is one of the first lessons we are taught as children. Yet this lesson is also one of the first that we forget. We may not think so, but sharing is something we really don’t do well, at least how that Jesus asked us to. Let’s see what He had to say:
Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away…And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people.
Luke 6:30, 33-34
We’ve heard this stuff a hundred times before, but how much do we really get it? Let’s look at what our Lord actually said, with emphasis on the crazy parts.
Don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Give to everyone who asks you.
Do not ask for your possessions back.
Lend, expecting nothing back.
So, according to Jesus, we have to give to everyone who asks for something. Is that practical? No. What about possible? I don’t know. But God said so, anyway. There might be a little bit of hyperbole involved, but even though there may be exceptions, this should definitely be our guiding rule for when people ask stuff from us.
Does this apply to everyone you see on the side of the road with a cardboard sign? What about every call for a special offering? These are real possibilities that we have to consider. Even in the mundane, can we refuse to share a cookie or a noodle? I’m not sure we can.
In addition, when people just take our stuff, we aren’t supposed to bother trying to get it back. Does this apply to criminal theft? Maybe not in every circumstance, though in some this could be the right way to respond. But in the everyday, I doubt there are many exceptions. Sometimes people take stuff from you, be it a cookie or a stapler, and when possible (obviously when you truly need something you need something) Jesus would ask us to let them go.
This trend continues into lending, of course. Jesus is clear: when someone asks you to lend them something, do so, and do not expect to get your stuff back. If they return what you’ve given them, good. If they do not, be glad they can continue to benefit from you. Do not pester them or hunt them down to get your stuff back. This is all just a way of loving our neighbor as ourselves, even when they act like enemies.
In my honest opinion, very few of us get or do this the way Jesus said. We rationalize and come up with all sorts of excuses to reduce the “everyone” to “a few trusted friends.” We lend expecting everything back, and are offended when that doesn’t happen. As far as we are concerned, what we have is ours, and everyone else has to have our blessing to use our property. Our rights are fundamental, and their needs and desires are secondary. We may never say anything like this, but we do act this way.
If Jesus saw us doing this, how would He respond? I imagine He would say something like this:
If you give only in the offering plate when you are expected to, what good is it? Do not even the hypocrites and the self-righteous do the same? And if you lend only to those you trust expecting a return, how are you better than anyone else? Do not even banks and credit card companies do this?
Harsh. So let’s listen to Jesus.