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What can I get? No, what can I give?

posted 16 Feb 2016, 10:22 by Stephen Childs
So often we deal with each other according to the law of "tit-for-tat". We make sure we get what we feel we deserve, and only help those who have helped us. When we do this, we're thinking of our relationships in terms of business, not brotherhood. 2500 years ago, Nehemiah faced the same problem. Although the community of Jewish people was small, it was being torn apart. The rich were exploiting the poor, even though they shared the same challenges and faced the same enemies. In Nehemiah 5, Nehemiah said that what they were doing was "not right" - because they were family, and because it was not what God wanted. He told them to stop exploiting each other, and to write off the debts of the poor people. Not good business, but it is good brotherhood.

He also showed them a better way. Although he was governor, he hadn't been taking his full allocation of food. He wasn't lording it over them or lining his own pockets. On the contrary he was hosting hundreds of people for meals every day! He dedicated himself to the work of rebuilding the wall that would protect them. He wasn't out to get, he was out to give. In a small way, he was pointing forward to the extraordinary generosity of Jesus. As Paul described it in Philippians 2, Jesus didn't cling on to his "rights", although he was seated in heaven itself. He gave it all up for us.

Nehemiah showed them how to stop thinking of what they could get from each other, and to start thinking of what they could give to each other. Jesus shows us that a million times more.

As we trust in his perfect goodness and generosity, how can we follow Jesus' lead? Paul talks about it in terms of considering the interests of others, something we often fail to do. Think of the sentences starting "I ..." that stop you from serving others: "I deserve a break." "I've done so much already." "I can't solve all the world's problems." And replace them with sentences starting "He", "She", or "They": "He's going through a tough time, I wonder if I could take him out for dinner." "She's been struggling lately, perhaps I'll pop over with a meal." "They're strapped for cash, could I send them an anonymous gift?" Reflect on Jesus' kindness to you; stop thinking about what you can get from others, and start thinking about what you can give.
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