Yelling at one who gives $100 bills

Apr 8, 2016 by

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Suppose I walk up to a neighbor and give them a $100 bill. They, of course, wonder what it’s for! I just say that I want to give it to them. Further, suppose I do this for 30 days, but then on the 31st day I walk by their house and give my $100 bill to the next neighbor. What if the first neighbor shakes their fist at me?!

We at Trissels Mennonite Church (Broadway, Va.) have set 2016 as a Year of Gratitude & Generosity, celebrating the many ways God’s grace and generosity comes to us and encouraging a response of gratitude and generosity in each other. But how many days are our hearts not filled with gratitude but with complaint and anger because we are like that neighbor in our story? We take it for granted that a good thing God gave us on previous days will again be given to us today. And when it apparently goes to someone else instead, we are disappointed and shake our fist at God. Shouldn’t we instead continue grateful for what we have been given?

Or imagine our little story ending this way: On the 31st day I point out to my neighbor that they are getting quite focused on that $100 bill. “How about if we today focus on our relationship. Come to my house in a bit, and let’s talk together.” What if the neighbor is visibly upset? Even though I was going to explain about the hot financial stock that enables me to have all those $100 bills! How many times have we spurned a good which God is offering because we were expecting some other good?

C.S. Lewis wrote in Letters to Malcolm:

Tell me if you think [this] a vain subtlety. I am beginning to feel that we need a preliminary act of submission not only towards possible future afflictions but also towards possible future blessings. I know it sounds fantastic; but think it over. It seems to me that we often, almost sulkily, reject the good that God offers us because, at the moment, we expected some other good.

The same dynamic affects our relationships with one another. We are often miserable around someone because they aren’t doing something we want them to do. If we gave up that expectation, we would enjoy them — because they do have a lot of good points.

We’re not in charge of our world. We can’t make God or our neighbor give us $100 bills. So why not hold loosely our presumptions as to what they will do for us? Maybe that would let us find new eyes to see and appreciate the good things they are giving. We won’t think so much about the glass being half-empty but take delight in however full it is!

Harold N. Miller is pastor of Trissels Mennonite Church, Broadway, Va.

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