As the Joad family travels to California as part of the great migration westward during the 1930’s in Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, there’s a scene that takes place in a diner on Route 66. A man and his two sons shuffle in. Their time on the road has left them dirty and disheveled. The man asks if he can purchase a loaf of bread for a dime. Mae, the waitress, puts him off, sharply reminding him that it is a diner, not a grocery store. Besides, a loaf of bread sells for fifteen cents, not ten. Back and forth they go, with the man whose humility was insistent, explaining that he has limited resources and a 1,000 more miles to travel. Finally the cook, a man named Al, tells Mae to sell him the loaf for a dime. She grudgingly complies.
But then something happens.
The man pulls a dime and a penny out of his pouch. He is about to put the penny back in when he asks if the peppermint sticks in the candy case sell for a penny. Mae tells him no, they are actually two-for-a-penny. He gives her the two coins and the boys each receive a stick of peppermint. As they leave the diner, a couple of truck drivers who have been sitting at the counter observing all of this, remind Mae that the peppermint is a nickel a stick. She tells them to mind their own business. The men soon rise to go, leaving the money for their bill on the counter. As Mae retrieves the money, both have left half-dollars to pay for their fifteen cents of pie and coffee. She yells at them to wait for their change and they tell her—to mind her own business.
Don’t you love that? You’ve seen that kind of thing before, haven’t you? Someone makes the choice to do something and it convicts/inspires others and before you know it there’s an epidemic of generosity going around. It’s the joy of sharing.It was the Christ Himself who inverted the world’s value system by declaring it a greater blessing to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). He didn’t say it wasn’t blessed to receive—there’s nothing wrong with receiving and there’s nothing wrong with the enjoyment that comes from that. What He did say was that it was more blessed to give. By saying this, He points us to something higher, nobler, deeper, and grander—something He modeled with His life. Paul has this to say about Jesus in Philippians 2:3-8:
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very natureGod,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
A large part of growing in Christ is opening our lives up to experience the joy of sharing. And although we’re tempted to think of this primarily in material/monetary terms, that’s just one aspect of it. We’re to share everything—forgiveness, joy, mission, etc. There is joy in such sharing because it helps us to meet the needs of others and practice real community.