Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Questions on Gift Exchange

In previous posts I discussed how contemplation brings about an internal understanding that we are the recipients of a great gift. However, some people struggle with the knowledge that they do not want to be reciprocal in their gift.

This is similar to a story that a faculty member told me about gift-giving culture in Japan. He mentioned that the standards within Japanese culture for the dollars and thoughtfulness involved in the gift giving deters some people from returning to Japan to visit their families.

Indeed our salvation and relationship with God are great gifts! So much so that receiving them and becoming a disciple demands everything. This is well articulated in Bonhoeffer's book The Cost of Discipleship.

Does the knowledge that there will be an inclination to give back cause some people to never receive the gift at all? If so, what can be done to alter that perception that doesn't diminish the demands of being a disciple?

An additional thought comes to mind from the Parable of the Two Sons that puts an interesting spin on these questions. If someone is reluctant is that necessarily a bad thing? Of course, we think it best to be as Isaiah when he says, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8) but ultimately it matters that we are sent and that we act. The first brother, though initially spurning the invitation, ultimately follows through with care for the vineyard. The second brother liked the idea of the work than the actual work.

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