Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) He spoke these words to his apostles when he sent them out to minister in Israel. These men were blue collar workers who worked long hard hours to earn their money. What did Jesus mean that they had “freely received?” All those hours on the water pulling nets did not seem free. Neither did the days sitting at the tax table taking abusive words from people who did not want to pay their taxes. They earned a wage; they were not given many gifts.
And yet, Jesus seems to be saying that all they had was given to them as a gift. “Freely you have received…” This strikes hard against our Protestant work ethic – we want to earn everything we have and we do not want to be charity cases! We want this because then we can be the masters of our possessions and our fate. If I earned it, I am completely free to decide what to do with it. It is all mine!
We can, of course, live with clutched hands and stingy minds; but we cannot live this way and be pleasing to God. To please God we have to make some fundamental shifts. First, we have to understand that everything we have is a gift. Everything! We are dependent on God for our next breath, for the sun rising in the morning, and for the health that enables us to work. Second, we have to trust that living with open hands is a better option than trying to grab everything we can.
The desire to hoard is based on the mathematical truism that the more you get the more you have. The words of Jesus are based on the spiritual truth that the more you give the more you are. (Idea borrowed from Frederick Beuchner.) At the end of your life God will be interested in discovering what you are, he will not be interested in or impressed by how much you have. “Freely you have received, freely give.”