The disciples of Jesus compiled their teachings for the Church into a document that is now called The Didache. It's a beautiful work that resembles the Sermon on the Mount in large part while also consisting of liturgical instructions. As I was reading this document once again tonight I could help but meditate upon a short teaching.
"If any man seizes what is yours, do not demand it back, for you cannot anyway. Give to everyone who asks of you and never demand a return, for it is the Father’s will that all should share the gifts we have received."
Jesus, of course, said something quite similar in his teachings. He stated, "Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you" (Matthew 5:42). Luke 6:30 records a near identical teaching, "Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back."
These are pretty bold teachings in our society. We tend to think we are entitled to what we have earned or purchased. We tend to think we alone own what is in our current possession. We are more often concerned with our rights than with our gifts. This is a problem in my eyes.
When we focus too much on rights and worldly justice ("what's mine is mine") then we lose focus of the grace of God. God has gifted us everything we have so that it may be shared with others. He has commanded us to not be the type of people who demand back what is taken from us. This seems a strange and even unjust teaching to some but to those who recognize that all is gift this makes perfect sense.
Many of us need to repent when it comes to our attitudes towards our belongings. too many of us too often are convinced that we are entitled to what we have when we aren't. We forget that ALL is gift and grace from God. If he has rewarded us then we should enjoy the reward whilst we can. f that reward should be taken then we bless those who take from us and do not demand that they return what was once ours, for as the disciples say, we cannot do so anyway.We were meant to share our gifts, and if allowing thieves to keep their booty is a way we can share then we must allow them their spoils with a loving heart.
When I read these words I believe the challenge for many of us is to change our view on our belongings. It is a reminder that we do better to embrace the philosophy of gifts rather than of rights. For Americans this can be a difficult practice but it is a necessary one if we are to love others well.