Every morning on my way in to work, I pass this tree. It’s kind of pitiful looking, isn’t it? Yet it’s also beautiful. A portion of it was damaged in the ice storm of 2009. And it has survived. More than that, it stands firm and strong. Heaven only knows why God is keeping it around, or what good it can do.
I wonder if this tree ever said, “Why did God do this to me?” Or, “Oh, poor pitiful me. I can’t give as much as all these lovely trees that aren’t broken.” That’s one attitude it could have. It would be the same attitude as the servant in Matthew 25 who only received one talent. He was half angry at the master for being harsh and expecting so much out of him. Or it’s like the young rich man in Mark 10 who thought obeying the commandments was all he had to do to receive life.
Jesus set them both straight. Following commandments is good but it doesn’t always meet the need your neighbor. Follow Jesus. Heal. Feed. Comfort. Guide. Contribute to bringing harmony in the world. These are actions of kindness and love toward those in need. Invest what you have been given in the proportion it has been given to you.
This tree – what does it have to give? Life. Breath. Tools to convert raw materials into leaves and wood that give shelter and food to birds, animals, insects, etc. When it gives, other forms of life are attracted to it and ultimately provide more raw materials for growth.
This takes an attitude of possibility, of hope, of trust. I think this tree is teaching us a lot about giving. It’s in giving where you will find life.
Why does the giving have to come first? It doesn’t. The rich young man had his riches. The servant was given what he had by the master. God always gives first. “We love God because God first loved us.” That’s the attitude that brings life. God as a giving God. We simply respond in kind…and receive even more…life.