Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Dandelion Theology

Back when my daughters were young it would not be uncommon for them to present me with  a little creation of their own as a gift for their daddy.  A page out of their coloring book or a hastily made craft project where some of their favorites, but I'll never forget a particular gift they gave me many years ago.

We used to live on a street that dead-ended into a field that in the springtime would bloom with all sorts of weeds, some of which would be quite colorful.  Among them were dandelions.  The girls would play out in the field and one day they came in announcing they had a surprise for me.  From behind their backs they revealed a bouquet of "beautiful flowers" they had picked for me from the field and presented them to me as if they were the rarest and most beautiful flowers known to man.   And to me they were!

In actuality they had handed me a bunch of weeds that probably wouldn't last through the day, but because of their love for me and my love for them they were received as a great treasure.  Sometimes it really is the thought that counts and, if that be true, this gift was priceless.

Giving to God - whether it be time, talents, or money - can be a tricky proposition. 
What can we possibly give to the Creator of everything? 
What need does He have with me or anything I possess?
If I give more than the next guy is He more pleased with me?
If I have just a little does that mean that my gift is in some way less pleasing to Him?

Giving can be both guilt inducing and pride inflating.  I have felt both.  I have felt that God is somehow lucky to have a generous man like me on His side.  At other times I have felt my gifts inadequate especially compared to others who have more to give.  If we look at giving as a pure transaction between Creator and creature then we will fall into one of those categories.  But it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn't be.   Neither feeling is what God desires and neither feeling encourages joyful generosity.

Instead of looking at giving as a business transaction it should be seen as an expression of a personal relationship, a display of gratitude and love.  We don’t give to God to "pay Him off";  we give to God like a child who wants to express their love to their father.  Regardless of the size of the gift we give it to Him as an expression of our love and thankfulness.  And a gift given out of love is a precious gift to the recipient.

On one occasion Jesus was observing people as they came by to make their contributions to the temple in Jerusalem.  Some came by and deposited large sums of money which surely drew the admiration of bystanders and many thanks from the priests.  Jesus never says their large gifts were not welcomed and appreciated, but he does point out another gift that was made.  A widow came by and gave a small amount, a mere percentage of what the others had given.  Yet Jesus commends her saying she gave more than all the others!  What a startling statement that must have been, and still is today.  That small gift amounted to no more than a fistful of weeds, but because of the love it represented it was received as a priceless treasure.

As believers we are called to be cheerful givers, but giving will never be joyful until it is rooted in a relationship with our Father.  When we give with the pure simplicity of love both the giver and the recipient will overflow with delight.

Throughout the years my daughters have given me more expensive gifts but each one is  valuable not on the basis of the price tag, but by virtue of what the gift says.  God receives our gifts in the same way.  No matter what I give I like to see myself as that little child running into the house and surprising my father with a bouquet of weeds and then seeing a smile come across his face.  And in that image I find the joy in giving!

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