Monday’s daily Gospel lesson concludes with the following words, “And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay” (Mt. 9:36ff). The last verse can be translated a few different ways: “Freely you have been given, freely give.” And “You have received as a gift, give as a gift”. The word comes from the same one we use in church “antidoron”—the bread in the basket at the side, the bread “instead of the gifts”.
This verse always strikes me, as it is a constant reminder that everything we have is a gift from God. Every penny, every car, every house, every child, parent, and relative. Every possession, every breath that we breathe. It is all given to us. Given.
I remember once as a teenager threatening to run away from home: “I’ll just take what is mine and go!” “And what is yours?” asked my dad. “My surfboard and my clothing!” I don’t think my father was theologizing at the time, but his response is to the point, “Those are gifts from us!”
Even if I had earned my own money to buy the surfboard, who took me to work before I could drive? Who helped me with my education so that I could do the work I did? My parents! If this is so for teenagers and their parents, how much more so is it true with reference to our relationship to our Lord and Creator? I may have worked 80 hour weeks to buy the beach house, but who gave me the skills to work? The means to get there? Who gives me the breath to breathe in order to go enjoy the beach house? Freely you have been given, freely give.
When we begin to see life through these eyes, then giving is not so difficult! I can then even make a sort of game out of it: I am like the trustee of a great treasure, and God is allowing me to distribute these gifts wisely! What do we have that was not given to us by God? Nothing!
How, then, does this affect the way we give to the church? To the building fund? To the hungry man on the street? To our needy neighbor? To our children? To our parents? “Freely you have received, freely give.” God grant us to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22)!