Thursday, July 31, 2008

Gift or Expectation?

God brought a story to my remembrance this week that I read about a year and a half ago.  The reminder took me by surprise because I read it so long ago, and I hadn't really thought about it in quite some time.  He used it to show me how I was responding to a difficult situation in my life in a sinful way.  I confessed my sinful response, and every time I start thinking wrong thoughts again, this story comes back to mind again.

Let me set the story up for you.  A man wanted to conduct an experiment with people.  He decided that every day for 30 days he would walk down a street in a particular neighborhood and hand out a $100 bill at each home, NO STRINGS ATTACHED.

On the first day of his experiment, as he went from house to house, the residents seemed extremely suspicious--of his sanity.  They would hesitantly reach from behind their screen doors and then quickly grab the bills.  They reacted similarly on the second day of his rounds.

But by the third and fourth days, many of the people had spent the bills and found them to be the real thing.  The neighborhood was buzzing with news of these daily gifts of hundred-dollar bills.

The second week people were actually waiting on their front porches, peering down the street as they watched for the man to come.  They began visiting with one another, shouting in neighborly fashion across yards and the street.

By the third week, however, the novelty of the man's visits seemed to be wearing off.  The residents had a humdrum attitude toward the daily gifts.  The gifts were becoming old hat.  By the fourth week, when the pattern of visits had become firmly established, they were considered an accepted part of everyday neighborhood life.

On the last day of the month the man tried a different approach.  He walked down the street again but with no money to give away.  As he did so, a strange thing happened.  Residents threw open their doors, stepped out on their porches, and shouted angrily, "Where's our money?" and "You so-and-so, how dare you not give me my hundred dollars today!"

What had happened?  The people had come to expect and even demand something that was originally presented to them as an unmerited gift.  They had grown to feel that the man owed them the money.

We can be the same way...with God.  All our life--our families, our friends, our material possessions, our health--starts out as a gift.  As life goes on, we can begin to take those gifts for granted and develop expectations of how things are supposed to be.  If and when the gifts are withdrawn, we may become angry or demanding because we think we have a right to them.  Instead, we would be wise to determine to be grateful for whatever is given to us.

(Faith is Not a Feeling, Ney Bailey, p. 71-72)

It shames me to read this story because I know I have come to demand one of God's gifts, and it's taken a season of the gift being removed to see how I've come to expect the gift and shaken my fist at Him and said, "You so-and-so, how dare you not give me my hundred dollars today!"  I haven't spoken those words, but it's my heart's attitude when I say, "Why, God?  This is not fair!"  How could I say that to God when He has given me so much...and all of it is His undeserved grace and mercy?

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