Here is a problem I have run into.
A scenario happens where someone is given something. Maybe it’s a gift, or your time, money, a job. It doesn’t really matter. A gift is and can be a beautiful thing. However, let’s say in this scenario that this gift is squandered. The person wasn’t grateful for it, or they wasted what they had, or when given an opportunity they didn’t give anything in return. The question that we all will ask ourselves pretty quick, especially if the gift was from us, is why the hell we wasted our investment. Maybe we should have given the gift to someone else? Maybe we should have held onto it and made a better decision? We are filled with all sorts of emotions about the misuse of this gift.
Very quickly, when we are filled with these kind of emotions, it becomes obvious that this gift had strings attached. It might not have been known at first but it is clear at this point that in giving the gift there was a certain expectation on how the gift should be used. The expectation might have been that it was invested well, passed on and at the very least that the person was grateful for it. Maybe we just needed a little bit of acknowledgement that you gave this gift and that the person appreciated that and would give a gift back to you if they could.
This sounds like a text-book case of giving with strings attached. This I found though runs way deeper than surface level business maneuvers to scratch someone’s back so your itch is gone as well. I did this in one circumstance that didn’t occur to me until I had turned my gift into a debt that someone owed back to me. It ran so deep into my psyche that it took a good long while to see that I had become exactly what I was trying to fight against by giving the gift in the first place. The gift essentially turned the receiver into someone who was in my debt, but only really I believed that to be a reality. The receiver didn’t know what was happening in a moment’s notice when the opportunity arose I realized that I was frustrated because I was expecting certain things to happen because the gift was given.
I’m an idiot. I don’t think the strings were ever there at first, or at least I wasn’t aware of them. However, with what I perceived as my gift to someone else I also tied into that my expectation on exactly how that person should then live and act because of that gift. When this happens it ceases to be a gift and becomes a tactic of oppression and control. It’s not malicious oppression like we are used to talking about oppression. It’s rather a slow unconscious bubbling up of a system that at the root of it is manipulation and control. Which could be argued that it is even worse because the oppressor isn’t even aware of what he is doing. Hell, this person things he is a hero because he gave up something for the other person.
I remember back in high school and I heard Erwin McManus tell this story about some lady that needed help paying her rent. He helped her for a few months and then eventually had to stop helping her. When he told her he was stopping to help her she snapped on him, yelled a lot and accused him of a lot of things. The moral of the story? I think it had something to do with investing in people who are gracious and eventually will take what they have been given and when they can, will invest in others. A pay it forward kind of theology. At the time, this seemed like a wonderful story that easily supported my view of how the world worked. Why would you give money to people that are ungrateful and will just squander it and never help anyone else when they get a chance? Looking back on this story I can’t help but see that as a cop-out to get out of giving something without strings attached.
Expecting gratitude or absolutely anything is seeing gifts as type of currency. Which is the opposite of a gift. Therefore to expect anything, even a type of reaction, to a gift is to negate the very essence of its giftness.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.