Sunday, September 20, 2020

"If I Were a Rich Man"

One of my favourite movies of all time is Fiddler on the Roof.  I always wanted to play Tevye in a stage production, throwing my hands in the air and singing, "If I were a rich man."  Most of us can identify with the dreams of the poor milkman, who yearns to be be wealthy--because he doesn't believe he has enough.  "One day, I'll have more," we say, "and things will be better then."

But how would it be, if we were simply graeful for what we had?

As God's people wandered in the desert, they dined on manna every day--food that they didn't have to work for, that miraculously appeared each morning.  Much like Bubba Gump's shrimp, they could have it any way they wanted it.  Mana burgers, boiled manna, stewed manna, manna creole, fried manna, steamed manna--the list goes on.  But they weren't content with the menu that God provided.  They began to sing, "If I were a rich man."  "If I only had more, I'd be able to do so much more!"  But, because they didn't have what they wanted, they grumbled until God gave them what they asked for.  Meat on the menu.  Quail came down from the heavens, blanketing the earth and providing so much meat that the people never wanted to see another squab kebab.  God taught them to be grateful by giving them too much of a good thing.

In the New Testament, Jesus tells the parable of a wealthy landowner who hired workers for his fields, some in the morning, some at midday, and some in the evening.  At the end of the day he paid them, and they were surprised that they each received a full day's wage.  Instead of being happy for those who received what seemed like charity, those who worked a full day grumbled at the unfairness of their pay.  What they probably failed to realize was that they were chosen in the morning due to their physical fitness to work a full day in the hot sun.  Those who were were hired in the evening were most likely disabled people waiting on the roadside for charity.  He hired them to spare their feelings by giving them the opportunity to do light work for a short time, for the same.  The employer decided to expect "from each, according to their ability," and pay "to each, according to their need."  But this seemed unfair to the more capable workers.  When they complained, their employer simply reminded them that it was his money, to give as he pleases.  Jesus told this story to illustrate that we don't always appreciate God's fairness, because our mindset has to do with merit, but God's big idea is grace.

Both of these stories focus on the ability to receive from God whatever blessings the Lord wants to provide, without grumbling that we don't have more.  Instead of singing Tevye's song, we might do better to live the apostle Paul's words to his young friend Timothy.  "Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6.6)."  If you're curious what you'd do if you were rich, it's probably the same as you're doing now.  If you're stingy now, you'd probably hoard your wealth if you were rich.  If you're generous now with what you have, then if you were wealthy, you'd most likely be like the landowner who shared with those in need.  With contentment comes generosity, and the idea that people don't receive God's blessings because they deserve them, but because a gracious God wants to provide for people.

Today, I pray that you'll practice gratitude for the belessings you have received--not because you deserve them, but because God is good.  I pray, too, that you'll desire good things for others--not because they deserve them, but because a good God wants to provide for all.  And maybe ask yourself how you, who have been blessed, may share your manna, quail, and pay with those who are still waiting by the road.

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