I can’t quite remember when I first heard the phrase “nothing is yours until you give it away” but I was a teenager and the phrase has stuck with me ever since.
Certainly generosity was a way of life my parents modeled to me and my twin brother and two sisters. 20 years of serving as BMS medical missionaries in the Congo had rubbed smooth some of the hard edges of western individualism and consumerism. I remember hearing my mum tell of the bewilderment she felt in the isles of supermarkets.
Growing up in Glasgow our family of six would normally share Sunday lunch with 10-20 others. The rice and chicken casserole seemed to multiply according to the need. I remember the feast of reason and flow of soul that meal times often meant. No subject seemed taboo to explore. We learned to have robust conversation and listen to the news of others. It wasn’t conscious but we were learning to story tell.
It wasn’t just the food and meal table. My parents welcomed frequent lodgers to stay for periods of time and some became long-term residents and members of the family. John Divers was a case in point. Mum found him one day sleeping rough in Queens Park and persuaded him to come home for a meal. It was wet and cold. John was persuaded to have a shower, was given clothing that Dad didn’t need and then he stayed that night as the weather was so dreich (Scottish word for miserable!) A year later and John was still living with us. Oh yes he did succumb to ‘walkabout’ fever often but he always returned to roost.
As well as my close family I recall our Baptist Pastor Brunton Scott’s generous heart. Interestingly he’d also been a missionary to Brazil for years. Brunton was the best preacher I ever heard to this day. I loved his voice, a lovely mix of east Coast Scotland and a thick Portuguese accent peeking through.
One day when I was 14 he called me into his study (he and his family lived five doors down the street from us) and he encouraged me to “have a big heart after God and for other people”. I think it was an early defining moment in my life.
I love Jesus’ OTT attitude to living. His stories often shocked his audiences as well as his actions. He lived in an open way; not closed. What about when he spent time speaking into the life of a hated Samaritan woman. His disciples were shocked to find him doing so.
I love it when in Matthew 18 Peter asked Jesus a question about forgiveness. He’s been around Jesus enough to know that Jesus will give a number higher than the other rabbi teachers of the day. They were teaching that three times was okay. So when Peter wades in with a larger number, 7, he was assured of a roaring commendation by Jesus, wasn’t he? Instead Jesus blasts him out of the water and tells him “Peter, not 7 but 70 times 7!” Now that’s OTT.
Or what about in Mark 10 when we are told they were bringing their children to Jesus for him to bless. The greek word being used says they expected Jesus to ‘touch them’. It’s the same word for when the woman who had the bleeding for 12 years tries to touch the hem of Jesus’ coat. The word conveys a simple light contact or touch. However, what happened might have shocked these parents. We’re told he picks up the children in his arms and clasps or embraces them to his chest, the same symbolic act used in a legal court to seal a child being adopted. These parents in Mark 10 would have been tempted to think, “Hey, hang on there Rabbi, those kids are ours!” What Jesus is doing gives more understanding when he also states that he gives the Kingdom to these little ones. It’s like passing on an inheritance which of course is a parental thing to do.
I’m resolved! I want to live in an open sort of way that raises questions from those around and even raises eyebrows. In 2017 I’d like to be more OTT and shocking in the way I live and welcome others to my table, my heart and my attention.