I don’t know about you, but I have to remind myself regularly that God’s way of thinking and mine are quite often at odds with each other.
That’s why Jesus had to tell so many parables. He was describing a culture that his disciples had never heard of and were struggling to understand. Most of the time they still didn’t get it.
Quite often I miss it too.
Many years ago, I was sitting in bed with my young children, reading them the story of the Little Red Hen. I assume you are familiar with this children’s fable, but if not, here is a summary.
The Little Red Hen, who lives in a farmyard, fancies some nice freshly baked bread. So she asks her farmyard friends to help her go harvest some wheat for the flour. One by one, the pig and the duck, the rat and the cat, all say no. They are basically lazy and can’t be bothered. So she goes and harvests the wheat herself.
Then she asks for help to thresh the wheat. Again her short-sighted mates decline. So, she does it herself. The same thing happens with milling the flour and baking the bread.
Soon a beautifully baked loaf emerges from the oven all golden brown and the smell wafts its way around the farmyard. Of course, her predictable friends all come running, hoping for a slice. At this point, the Little Red Hen gets her moment. ‘Oh no!’ she exclaims, ‘you didn’t help me harvest the wheat or thresh it or mill it or bake the bread so you don’t get to help me eat it’. And she promptly tucks into the freshly baked treat to enjoy it all by herself.
I can still remember the pleasure that I felt as I was reading this to my kids, snuggled together in bed. ‘Oh I love this story’ I thought to myself. ‘ I love that clever, hard-working hen. She’s so responsible, so independent, so gutsy. ‘
I guess I related to her.
I’m a first-born, responsible type of gal. I play by the rules and I work hard. As I sat there with my kids under the duvet, in the middle of a life that was too busy and church responsibility that felt unappreciated, I comforted myself with the thought of blessings that would compensate me. I salivated at the thought of these golden baked rewards that I had earned, special rewards just for me.
But I had it a little twisted.
Because there is absolutely no place in God’s Kingdom for entitlement, only gratitude.
And, the blessings that come from obedience are for sharing.
Every good thing I do or have comes only from Jesus. I cannot even worship Him without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. I can’t be a good wife or mom on my own. I cannot serve Him, love Him or love others without His grace on my life.
And gratitude is so incredibly powerful. It kills ego and it grows into selfless generosity.
If I really believe that every good thing I have is from God, I will be happy to share it. I will never expect special treatment or privileges. I won’t keep track of the things I have done for God, expecting my equally large slice of reward.
I will be blessed and filled-up in order to pour out.
I will feel able to give out encouragement and love and acceptance because I know there are endless reserves of them all in Jesus when I am in need. I will be open-handed with my time and my friendship, not waiting for proof that someone is worthy of them.
And there is such freedom in this kind of generosity. I am free to stop thinking about myself and worrying about my needs. I am free to love and give extravagantly and to let others shine. I am free to keep giving without any thought to stocktaking.
Because this Kingdom has a King and He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
He modelled this topsy-turvy Kingdom living when He left behind privilege and made Himself nothing. He was rejected by His own creation and betrayed by friends. He healed and performed miracles that were met with antagonism and unbelief. He was alone when in obedience He went to the cross and was crucified.
And after all of this, He was raised to life and received His reward, the keys of life and death, which He freely shares with His beloved humanity, without reservation.
There is no place in this Kingdom for Little Red Hens.
It is a Kingdom of gratefulness and generosity where egos die and freshly baked gifts are sliced and shared and all blessings become worship.
Take time to be thankful today. Find someone to share your blessings with. Find someone to share yourself with. Be generous with your words at every opportunity. Joyfully live the upside-down, kingdom life. Fill up and pour out. Smile at a grumpy person. Forgive someone who hasn’t even noticed they have hurt you. Share something you earned with someone undeserving.
Let gratitude for God’s overwhelming, unmerited grace colour everything you do and say so that all who cross your path will know, without a doubt, what kingdom you belong to.