by Matt Hansen
This chapel message was shared with the RVA student body on January 23, 2015
We talk a lot about sharing in our house. We have four kids below six under our roof, and we’ve collected a number of toys since we’ve arrived. Despite the fact that the ratio of toys to boys in our house greatly exceeds 1:1, we still have a problem. More often than not, one child wants the toy that the other has. It is not necessarily because it is a cooler toy, but simply because their brother has it. My two-year-old Joseph’s continual cry is, “He’s not sharing!” That’s his way of saying, “I want that!”
I thought about having some sort of demonstration up here where I give one of my sons a Hershey bar or the like, then promptly ask him to give it away, or at least part of it, in an act of enforced sharing. That may have proven my point, but not without tears. The fact is, we don’t need some object lesson. We get it, sharing is often really hard, until we’ve learned the fruit of blessing that comes from it.
The only thing not hard to share is blame. If I get on to one of my children for breaking one of the household rules, like starting to eat before we pray, then often the first response is, “But my brother was doing it too!” In the Garden of Eden, after Eve had eaten the fruit and sin had already corrupted her heart, she didn’t have any trouble sharing the “apple” with Adam. And after God confronted them with their sin, they had no trouble pointing fingers–Adam to Eve and Eve to the serpent. I also have my own inner lawyer ready to come to my defense (and I’m not talking about the Holy Spirit).
Don’t get me wrong. I know that many of you live lives of great generosity, and you come from families that share sacrificially because we live in places where we are surrounded by great need. Many of us also live among people who share greatly even out of their poverty. In many places, if you don’t share, you don’t survive.
I believe sharing is at the heart of God’s Creation Order, but we have lost our natural inclination to share as a result of the Fall.
So far, it seems that I have been talking about sharing stuff: material resources and money. True, it is important to share with others materially. 1 John 3:17 says, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” Yikes! I see a lot of people in need right here. We are also told that the one who labors is to do so that he may have something to share with those in need.
But the idea for today’s topic actually came from my reading of 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” We are comforted to be comforters. I used to begrudge many of my trials and look for every way to escape them. I often missed the opportunity to receive grace in those troubles. I’m slowly–very slowly–learning to heed Peter’s words, “Don’t be surprised at the fiery ordeal(s) that have come to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” I can start to embrace those trials as chances to receive comfort that I can then later give. We receive precisely in order to give.
Paul writes in Galatians, “Anyone who receives instruction in the Word must share all good things with his instructor.” This probably means you should pay your pastor, but I’ve also always thought it probably means that the student of the Word should share the spiritual insights he receives with his teacher so that both may be blessed and encouraged. So we are called to share the spiritual truth we have received with one another.
The bottom line is: God blesses us to be blessings to others. We receive in order to give. He told Abraham at the outset of his mission, “I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you . . . and you will be a blessing to others” (Gen. 12:2). And what was it that Abraham blessed the world with most? Was it the large flock of sheep God gave him? No, it was his seed, the Christ.
This is still a difficult lesson for me, too, but let’s ask our generous God to show us how to share our material possessions, spiritual comfort, insight, and most importantly, the truth about Christ with others.