“Give to the one who asks”

Jesus says: Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)

Think back this past week or month- when you had cash in your pocket (which is a rarer practice these days for many people) and someone asked for help, or got a venmo/paypal/etc request for help: when did you release that money for someone else’s use? Do you remember how you made the decision? Do you remember why?

This sort of spontaneous giving is less planned and often feels more immediate, more personal. In the moment of decision, we find ourselves in an encounter that demands a response. That response may be to say no, or yes; it may be to click “give,” or keep scrolling; it may be to ask a question and keep the conversation going, or to turn away.

Asking for money, giving money, exchanging money – this happens all the time in our relationships. But where it fits into those relationships and how we feel about it differs according to the connection we have with another person or persons.

I may not think anything of it to shuffle $5 or $20 bills from my pocket to my partner’s, or my cousin’s. Or it may feel like a crushing burden that divides me further from them.

I may habitually keep back a $5 or $20 or whatever change I get from shopping that week to put in the offering plate at church or give to a person I may meet at the bus stop who’s asking for money. Or, I may decide to stop carrying cash altogether so I can just say, “Sorry, I’d love to, but I don’t have any cash on me.” Whether I’d love to or not.

God is in the midst of every encounter we have that involves an ask, an exchange, a flow of money, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But as people of faith we can explore not just what we do with our money but the relationships we find ourselves in, and the feelings that drive those encounters, to discern how God’s desire for restoration, healing and justice can be more fully realized.

If we generally fear or resent getting asked for money, whether from a family member or someone else known to us, or from an unknown person who is also our neighbor, what’s going on with that relationship? What would healing look like for you, among you? God’s promise of abundant life does include peoples’ material needs getting met, and exchanging and sharing money can facilitate this. And, God’s abundant life promises human relationships that are less guarded and manipulated, and more open to the dignity, worth, and value of each person regardless of their current circumstances of need or plenty.

If we generally give money when asked, how attached are we to knowing what the other person or people do with the money? Do we ever just give and not look back, to show a person we don’t presume to manage them or this gift we’ve freely given? Do we ever just give, and also want to find a way to spend time with that person? Time that’s not mediated by the flow of money but perhaps by the flow of some other exchange, like stories or knowledge or a shared meal? If we do try to deepen the relationship, what barriers do we encounter to communicating, trusting, knowing each other?

The Kingdom of God is a gift, and Jesus teaches us that our acts of giving and our acts of receiving can bind us closer in relationship with each other (and in God’s Kingdom, this “each other” is far more expansive than our current close circle of friends and/or family) and draw us closer into the life of our holy, gracious, and abundant God of all Creation, whom we know as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus says: Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:42)

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