Give and it will be given back to you
18 Ιανουαρίου 2011
by David Grier
«Give and it will be given back to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.» (Luke 6:38)
This is so plain and direct that we often are tempted to doubt that our Lord meant it. A recent article in the Oprah Magazine (December 2000) illustrates an example of someone who lived her life by this and other biblical principles. The article is an interview with Maya Angelou, a 72 year old woman who had overcome poverty, a broken home, childhood rape, single parenting, and the difficulties of being black in America to become a successful performer, author, and teacher. Oprah, who knows Ms. Angelou well, made the observation that «people flock to your home because of your generosity. Generosity must be a life principle for you.»
In response Ms. Angelou said: «Absolutely. I learned it by experience. When I was in my twenties I was so poor . If I had seven dollars, I would give a little more of it to the church than I could afford . I’d go to the store and buy two minute steaks with a lot of gristle. I wouldn’t eat my steak and Guy (her son) would say, ‘Ma, you’d better have some of your steak.’ I’d say, ‘No, you have that. I had something earlier.’ And he would inhale it. By nightfall, someone would phone and say, ‘Listen, I just stopped by the supermarket and I’m on my way past your house, and there was a sale on hamburger meat, so I picked some up for you and I will drop it off.’ All my life it has been that way.»
Then she went on to say, «If you have a napkin, you need another napkin to receive back all the blessings you’ll get. And you keep giving. Then you need a towel to receive all the gifts. And you continue to give, you finally have to move out to get a second house, and a third and so forth . It’s amazing. It’s a no-fail, incontrovertible reality; If you get, give. If you learn, teach. You can’t do anything with that except do it.»
This lady, in spite of her difficult situation, or maybe because of it, took Jesus at His word and He delivered. What about those of us who maybe have not had such a difficult life? Should we hoard the gifts that He has already given us through our seemingly more positive circumstances? It does not seem likely that this is God’s intention. It is more likely that we, in our abundance, should share all the more. We have already received much in this life.
Mother Gavrilia, an Orthodox nun (1897-1992) said that the reason there are poor people in the world, is so the wealthy will have an opportunity to give for their own salvation. Mother Gavrilia relates the following personal story that illustrates Luke 6:38 in action. It occurred in the 1950s when she worked in India prior to becoming a nun:
Ihad just finished working at a hospital where I had taught physiotherapy for a while. The people at this hospital were godless and very unkind. The day of my departure was very near, but I had no invitation yet from anywhere else. Nothing. They told me: ‘Your train leaves tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.’ So that was it! I took my small suitcase and one rupee (far less than one dollar) in my pocket,, I went to the railway station, which was also the terminus. From this point on I didn’t know where to go. Only God knew. So, I sat quietly in the waiting room. People moved about, walking in and out, and I waited to see whom God would send. In the meantime, two beggar boys came and I gave them the rupee to share between them. They took it and went away. Apparently, they told it to some other boys and, shortly, two more approached me. I had no money left, so I gave them a few candies I had in my pocket. Soon after, more children came. I had nothing to give them, but they would not believe me. So, to convince them, I turned my pockets inside out. And what do you think they did? They went away and climbed a mango tree and came back to offer me a beautiful mango! I took it and thanked them smiling, without saying a word. Now, what happened next? Everyone waiting at the station came to greet me, bowing to me in the Indian manner. Every single person. ‘What goes on here?’ I asked someone, and he answered, ‘In our religion, when a beggar gives you something, it means that God makes you a present and grants His blessing to you.’ You can understand how I felt. Well, after that, I just sat there and waited . And indeed, much later, a young Indian woman carrying a professional briefcase entered the waiting room. She came near and asked in English: ‘May I sit next to you?’ Now, as I have always had what is called ‘the dignity of the Christians’ – no one ever knew whether I was rich or poor. So, this lady sat next to me and asked again: ‘Where are you going?’ I said: ‘I have just finished my job at the Leprosy Hospital where I taught physiotherapy.’
‘And what are you going to do now?’ she went on. ‘And perhaps you are free? We would so much like . You know, we have a small hospital nearby and we would like to have someone teach’ . And I, who had nowhere to spend the night, was taken within one hour to my new destination and everything was fine! This is what God does! (from Nun Gravilia, The Ascetic of Love, Trans. Helen Anthony, Eptalofos SA, 1991)
Are you, like Maya Angelou was, an abused and poverty stricken young person? Or, have you been born into better circumstances such as a child of a wealthy businessman, like Mother Gravilia? Perhaps your life has parallels with one of them, but more than likely you have your own unique set of circumstances. These stories illustrate that it does not matter who you are, or what your circumstances. What matters is who the Lord is, and what you do with what the Lord has given you. God responds to those who remember that He is the source of everything that we have, and who share what He has given them with others – as these examples show!
(David Grier is a parishioner of Holy Resurrection Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. This article was first published in the Canadian Orthodox Messenger, Spring 2001)