Have you ever been to a meal in a restaurant with a number of people where each person chooses what they want and then, at the end of the meal the issue of how to settle the bill comes up? Well I have and I find that the dynamics of this situation are a very good parable on the issue of 'being Church' and 'Mutual Support'. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin:
One night a group of people decided to meet together to have a celebration meal for one of their friends. They decided at the beginning that each would buy their own drinks and they'd sort out the bill at the end. And so some had starters whilst others choose just to go to their main course. Everyone had a main course, each choosing what they wanted and then whilst others wanted dessert, others decided they were full and so their meal ended there.
Then came the moment of reckoning and one person suggested that they took the cost of all the meals and divided it by the number of people and so this is what they did. Now some of those at the meal, having eaten just a main course, found that the 'divided out' sum was twice the cost of what they had eaten, and yet they paid the agreed sum. Others decided that they would pay for, "What they'd eaten," and gave this money and no more. Still more people, having had starters, a main and a dessert paid the 'divided out' figure in the knowledge that they were 'winning' because their meal had actually come to more than the 'divided out' figure.
When the money was collected in they found that there wasn't enough to pay the bill and so some of those who had already given more than their own portion of the bill really was found themselves giving more so that the bill could be paid and they could go home.
Now which of those acted in the way that God would have us act in order to build His kingdom?
+ Those who paid more than the cost of their own meal acted 'generously'(especially as the giving of the extra from some was 'sacrificial' in that they had little to start with!),
+ Those who paid for their meal and nothing more acted legalistically in that 'you get what you pay for (and vv)' or perhaps it was merely the outworking of 'begrudging meanness' or 'thinking only of themselves (but nevertheless they paid their own way I hear some say, but what does this say of community and relationships?), and
+ Those who paid the 'divided sum' knowing that their meal cost more than that acted in a self-serving (or perhaps 'greedy or grasping') manner. The good old 'won that one' syndrome!
Do you recognise yourself, or your church, in this story I wonder?
have a think - more to come