Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Expanding Circle

How often do you do good things for others?

Most of us would have to say, "Not often enough!" The person who consistently puts others' needs above his own interests and preferences is a rare soul. A person who gives freely out of pure love, with no concern over whether her efforts are repaid or even appreciated, is even harder to find. The vast majority of humanity feels entitled to something in return, if only a verbal thank-you, for any favor done for another--and is quick to complain of others' ingratitude and to sever relationships with "all take and no give" people.

But much as we may wish otherwise, God isn't satisfied to see His people being only as good as the majority of humanity. As Jesus said, "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 brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?... When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Mt. 5:46-47; Lk. 14:12-14, NIV). Why? "That you may be sons 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" (Mt. 5:45). If God turned off the sun and rain to punish people for taking Him for granted, nearly all of us would suffer from regular dark days and dried-out lawns.

But even more than that, giving only to people whom we expect will give back keeps generosity trapped within a rather narrow circle. Toss a stone onto thick ice and it may make a few cracks at best. Toss a stone into liquid water and the ripples expand on and on.

Who knows where a few random acts of kindness may lead?

A kindness returned is a wonderful thing
When it's done from a warm, grateful heart,
But a kindness passed on is a greater thing still,
For the power of the good it can start.
For a kindness returned, though it bring a great joy,
Will remain in a closed loop of two,
But a kindness passed on makes the circle expand,
And its ripples may reach the world through.

To help out a friend is a wonderful thing,
When a heart acts in love that is true,
But a greater thing still is to help out those souls
Who may never give equal to you.
For to help out the ones who will quickly pay back
Is a thing most will do if they can,
But a heart that can give with no thought of return
Spreads the love of our Lord through the land.

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