Lenten Devotional: March 23

Greed Cloaked in Thanksgiving

— By Allison Floyd

I wore the same gray hooded sweatshirt almost every day this winter. It was just the right weight, super soft and so roomy. The large front pocket could hold my keys, wallet and phone, with room to spare to keep my hands warm. I wore that sweatshirt working in the garden, walking the dogs, meeting with colleagues at my office and even leading youth group at church.

Across the front of this miraculous fleece top the word “Thankful” is scrawled in ornate script. It just as well could say “#Blessed.”

I wore the message ironically and because the shirt was too comfortable for me to care.

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:40-48

That shirt reminds me of this passage, where Jesus challenges a lot of our notions about what is “ours”: 

That we should protect our property and use our own judgment about who deserves a share.

That we should resist thieves and borrowers.

That we are good if we share with people who appreciate (or reciprocate) the generosity.

The part of this passage that throws me the most – the part that must come first in my mind for me to understand the rest – is that God sends rain to us all. That means, I am not #Blessed just because I have things. God didn’t design for me to have things because he loves me. I didn’t earn these blessings through hard work or good deeds. They just fell to me like rain. 

At the same time, I’m supposed to pass on what I have in the same way … without asking if someone deserves a share, or is humble to me, or tried sufficiently. That’s easier to say than to practice. 

There are a lot of injustices in this world, places where people took when they had no right and then held onto what they had while hiding behind one of these excuses that Jesus dispels in this part of the Sermon on the Mount.  

Jesus’ challenge to us is to be truly thankful without wrapping those excuses around us like a warm and cozy “Thankful” sweatshirt. Only by acknowledging that prosperity fell on us like rain can we work toward a more just world.