42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, NIV)
I have two daughters. One is five months old and the other who is a thirty-year old trapped in a three-year old body. Both of them have passionate and assertive personalities that are true to their genetic heritage. (Translation: they get their stubbornness and bossiness from mommy and daddy!)My three-year old in particular is highly intelligent and fiercely independent; both of which are qualities that my wife and I want to nurture and contextualize as she grows up. Yet, we face the problem that all parents of siblings face around this age….sharing.
For two years, my eldest was the only thing that mattered and we doted on her as any loving and excited parents do with their first child. Gifts from friends and family were always centered on her and she quickly grew into a child that would expect attention, even if she didn’t want it. Last year’s birth of her sister meant all of the status quo had to change. While she has understood and adapted well to the presence of her sister, my wife and I have noticed an interesting phenomenon with ‘Boobie’ (my nickname for her).
As my second child gets older, she becomes more active and engaging with the world (especially to include her sister). Many times we give our second child the toys Boobie received as a baby. Boobie never much played with the toys and in many cases was totally unimpressed for much of her life with the toys she received as a baby. Her sister on the other hand, is the opposite. Totally enamored and mesmerized with the blinking, music, singing dancing toys that so traumatizes the aural memory that you can hear them in your sleep! It has been recently that Boobie has now wanted all the toys that her sister finds fascinating. Once her sister’s interest is peaked, here comes Boobie claiming the toy for herself and often pouting over its usage by her sister.
On one level, I find this behavior annoying and as any parent should do, my wife and I use those moments as opportunities to teach Boobie the importance of sharing with her sister. Often the lesson does not sink in right away, but we trust that we are laying a good foundation that will bear fruit (Pray y’all!) But the theologian in me finds a much deeper principle at work that is reflective in the human-divine relationship.
So often in life sharing does not appear normative to the human experience. Sure communities, families and friends share food, dwellings and other necessities that benefit the whole, but those acts are built on relational understanding. Sharing in its basic sense is the act of apportioning in such a way as to benefit the parties who are sharing. It doesn’t require a preexisting relationship and truthfully shouldn’t. Sharing however, has been relegated in our society to tax-deductible charitable giving and the consequence of last resort when there are not enough resources to satisfy each individual present. To each his/her own; you get yours and I’ll get mine, THE END!
This norm is not always explicitly taught by parents nor is it something that we seek to nurture in society. In fact, I am not sure where it originates. We didn’t teach our daughter that the toys she received were hers alone. In fact, we teach her that everything she has is ours, on loan until such a time she can pay us back!!! LOL. A pastor friend of mine told the story:
A man watched his two children playing in the mall one day. As they ran back and forth playing tag he marveled in the wonder of child’s play and the innocence therein. Suddenly the older sibling stopped to play with a small toy that she just happened upon. Upon discovering the toy, her younger brother also wanted to play with the toy…together. To which his sister pushed him away saying, “No IT’S MINE!”
It is clear to me in both raising my children and pastoring congregations that sharing is a reflection of the divine moving in the world. For some reason, (some call it sin, others call it human frailty, and others still call it instinct), children and their larger counterparts seem to fail when it comes to giving from their abundance. I believe the text above reminds us of the power of the divine in community to move us to give and to share. The text from the book of Acts displays the power of sharing providing the move of the Holy Spirit through the people. It takes an effort to move from your storehouses that which benefits you and can benefit another. In fact, it is Divine effort that accomplishes such a feat. This text shows that Have-nots have because the Haves felt to give. Such is the power of sharing as a divine initiative. O what a different world this might be if just the Christians decided to share!!
The church is the place where sharing should be the modus operandi and the hallmark of the people of God. Yet so many congregations keep their buildings, food and fellowship to only the people they have relationships with (i.e members and family). Our consumerist culture dictates that we get what we want and the scraps are for the late comers and the “lazy folks”. One political argument this election season says:
‘Don’t demean me because I got all of this prosperity. I don’t have to share and I don’t want to!’
The world’s most prosperous nation and arguably the most Protestant-Christian-centered nation (the USA) also has the highest rate of hoarding per person in the world. If there is already so much access to ‘stuff’ in the US, than why do we need to stock up just for our usage? It takes the move of the divine in our lives to move us to be concerned about our neighbor in such a way to give for their sake. I know, we should do that instinctively to better all who are involved, but history tells us that we don’t.
The old adage is true, “sharing is caring”, but is not reflective of just our caring. Sharing is revealing the power of the God who cares for all of us through relationship. We share because we want someone to share with us. News FLASH: Someone has already shared with us! We share because God shared(s). God shares, so we share. Sharing IS caring, but it is also a vision of truth…