FOCUS – The foolish gift
by Lt. Amanda Reardon –
I was sitting at the Angel Tree in the posh Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall, collecting gifts for the underprivileged. In that mall, we’re accustomed to receiving nice gifts. But this occasion was special. A young man, probably in his early twenties, approached our table with three lawn-size garbage bags, completely full. We stood with our mouths agape as he opened the bags to reveal hordes of Star Wars toys. He had chosen three needy children from the tree, and was going to split the toys among them. I was a bit curious as to why someone would shower these children with so many of one type of toy. Then the young man’s mother explained to me that these were his personal collection. A close look at the toys made it obvious he’d been collecting for years, for some of them were older toys. But none had ever been opened. There wasn’t so much as a bent package. Though the giver reported that they had a value of $600, I am convinced they were worth even more.
It could be argued that the young man’s gift was a foolish one. These toys, so well-preserved, will now be ripped open and played with by children who will not understand their dollar value. Eventually, arms will be snapped off, accessories lost, and one or two might be left behind at a park or accidentally dropped behind the tire of a car. Actually playing with the toys means inevitable destruction, deterioration, or neglect. If this benefactor wanted to do a good deed with his collection, why not sell the toys and donate the money? Couldn’t more good be done that way?
Neither this scenario nor this line of reasoning are new. In John 12, Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointed Jesus’ feet with a very costly perfume. To Judas Iscariot, this was a rash act. He protested that the perfume could have fetched a hefty sum if sold, and the money could have been given to the poor.
If we are honest, most of us instinctively side with Judas on this issue. But Jesus reacted favorably to Mary’s deed, declaring: “You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” (vs. 8) This is difficult to understand. Who would be more in favor of helping the poor than Jesus? Why this indulgent response?
To my mortal mind, Mary behaved illogically. But God’s wisdom and man’s wisdom have never seen eye to eye. (I Corinthians 1:20) The experienced Christian has learned not to lean on his own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), but to defer to the Origin of all wisdom. We must tap in to his mind, think and act his way. Mary seems to have done this. It was godly logic, as Jesus made clear in verse seven, that she should prepare him for his burial with the perfume.
Perhaps more costly than the lavish material gift is the unfettered gift of the heart. While many a generous person may give of his financial resources, few are willing to make an emotional investment in another person without guarantee that it will yield some sort of return. How foolish to love if not loved mutually! How foolish to be kind to someone who is always rude to you! How foolish to forgive the unrepentant ones who have wronged you! The world teaches us to guard our hearts and nurse our grudges.
Following this line of thinking, perhaps the gift that would rate as most foolish was the gift of Jesus Christ. Would you send your only son to be murdered just to spare a selfish race who had mostly ignored you since its inception? Would you implore this race to reconcile with you and extend unconditional love to it? I imagine that if I were God, I would have blown up the planet and started fresh. We may not fully understand God’s expansive love, but we understand enough that it should prompt us to give foolishly likewise.
What gift is the Holy Spirit asking you to give? For some, it may be a material gift. For all of us, it is a gift of the heart. The old song, Banners and Bonnets, says: “Would you love the unloved, never reckoning the cost..?”
I applaud the young man who gave his Star Wars collection. I believe he was prompted by a godly logic. I suppose a friend or two will ridicule him, but I don’t think he’ll regret what he did. “This really makes him feel good,” his mother told me.
There’s just something about shunning man’s logic in favor of God’s. It feels right to be his fool.