Last Saturday Tom, Tommy and I were hurrying from Union Station in downtown Chicago down the block and around the corner to the Megabus stop, dragging our suitcases along through the crowds and the pouring rain.
At one point a polite panhandler stopped us, wanting to know if he could be of any assistance to us we or if needed directions or help. All we need, thought I as I sought to dodge him, is for you to step aside so we can get the heck to our stop before our bus leaves!
When we were a few steps past the man Tom stopped. "Should I give that guy a dollar?" he asked me.
"No, no," I said without stopping, "keep moving! Please!"
I was anxious about getting to the bus, getting a seat, getting out of the rain. So we all kept moving.
But once we were on the bus, all dry and squared away and settled into our seats with time to spare, I started feeling kind of bad.
"I'm sorry," I said to Tom, "I should have let you stop and give that guy a dollar."
"I know," Tom replied, "he seemed like a nice guy."
2. The Problem With Gratitude
We hear, especially around this time of year, that we should cultivate gratitude. That we should develop an awareness of all the good things in our life and be thankful. That gratitude is healthy. That it makes us feel happier.
Of course I believe all of the above. And yet I must admit that I sometimes have a problem with the whole gratitude model. Because while I'm ticking off in my mind all the good things I've got to be thankful for I can't put aside the thought of the suffering populations around the globe, the hungry, the health-care and education-deprived, people living in war-torn areas who exist in fear and privation and hardship.
And so here's my problem: Is it selfish to proclaim oneself blessed, to "revel in gratitude" (a quote of my daughter Theresa) when there are millions in the world who suffer from lack of the most basic human necessities?
3. Gospel Of Abundance
Last Sunday at Peace Lutheran Church our Pastor, Doug Warburton, preached on the beautiful passage of Luke 12: 27-28:
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?
The message of the passage, Pastor Doug explained, is that God has blessed the world with great abundance, more than enough resources for everyone on the planet to have sufficient food, clothing, and shelter. But God leaves it to us human beings to share with each other all the good gifts around us. There's no need for one group of people to hoard for themselves what God meant to be shared by all; and there's no need to worry that if we share what we've been given with those in need then there won't be enough left for us. God has given us plenty to go around.
G.K. Chesterton wrote: "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried".