The Rev. Justin Smoot

The Rev. Justin Smoot

My friend’s son came home from camping with the Boy Scouts. He returned, no worse for wear, but he brought back the cookies that she baked for him to take along. He proudly stated that he was fair. He had given everyone one.

She replied that she baked those cookies for the Boy Scout troop camping trip and that she didn’t want him to bring any back. He didn’t quite understand.

He has two younger siblings, and my friend watches a couple other young children during the day. He has probably heard about equal sharing in the context of making sure that toddlers and siblings have no cause to fuss and fight. It sounded like he avoided a Boy Scout fight based on his cookies.

But in his quest to be fair, there was something that he was missing. As I observed this conversation between my friend and her son, I saw she was frustrated that this bright child had failed to pick up on an important life lesson she wanted to teach. Generosity.

His parents had generously opened their house to me and other friends of ours, so that we could spend time together, their kitchen so we could cook meals for the crowd that invaded their home and cleared their table so that we could play games and share food and conversation. This boy had seen, but not perceived, his parents’ extreme generosity. Even in the preparation for his trip, they made sure that he had what he needed, clothes, camping gear, toothbrush, etc., and they made sure that the troop had something to enjoy, too, cookies.

He did well in not eating all of the cookies, or even just eating the extra cookies, for that would have been selfish. He knew he was not supposed to hoard what he had been given but to share it. However, in limiting the others to only one cookie each, he succeeded in being fair, but failed in being generous.

Generosity is eminently unfair. It means that I do not use what I have for my own purposes, but freely give to others. This generosity is not simply directed at those who have need, but also extends to those who would appreciate what we have, and those who are interested in what we have. It mean’s everyone gets cookies, even if I have to give up mine.

I had no need to be at my friend’s house. I had every means of returning home, of staying at a hotel, of driving elsewhere. It was unfair that I occupied their house, disrupted their lives, stole their husband/father away for games, ate their food, parked in their driveway, used their hot water, none of which I had a right to. And they were completely fine with this unfairness because they didn’t see it as being unfair, they saw it as being generous. I was eating their cookies and they were giving me more.

Christian’s should never be fair, they should always be generous. There is the fundamental understanding that the things that we have, are not ours, they belong to God. From the house or apartment that we live in, to the clothes that we wear, to the money in our bank account, nothing is ultimately ours. They are blessings from God, but God never blesses us for our sake.

Blessings are not the easy parking space at the store that lets us get on with our day more quickly, it is the connection made with the people while waiting behind a large order.

Blessings are not the little things that make life easy, they’re the things we are given to be unselfishly, unfair with. Like the cookies, blessings should not remain with us but be shared freely, even if we don’t get to taste one.

The Rev. Justin Smoot is pastor of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, LaGrange. Contact him at justin.h.smoot@gmail.com.

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