What keeps you from giving now? Isn’t the poor person there? Aren’t your own warehouses full? Isn’t the reward promised? The command is clear: the hungry person is dying now, the naked person is freezing now, the person in debt is beaten now – and you want to wait until tomorrow? ‘I’m not doing any harm,’ you say. ‘I just want to keep what I own, that’s all.’ You own! You are like someone who sits down in a theater and keeps everyone else away, saying that what is there for everyone’s use is your own.
–Basil, Fourth century
When Brian and I were first married, he was in grad school, and we lived in California for a couple of years. Housing is incredibly expensive in the Bay Area, and so our first year, we lived in a tiny walk-up apartment. It was always sweltering in there, and you could stand in the center of the kitchen and swivel to reach the stove, the sink, and the refrigerator. The internet worked sometimes, but you had to sit in the hallway to get a signal. We made it work, but it wasn’t the best.
Our second year there, we got together with two other couples and rented a house together. Our share was less expensive than the rent on our tiny apartment, and we got a gorgeous yard, a big rambling house, and friends with whom we share a lasting bond.
Because we shared chores, I didn’t have to clean a toilet all year. Each couple only had one car, but we all shared, and so we always got where we needed to go. We each cooked only one night a week, and so we ate incredibly well because we weren’t tired of cooking or out of ideas.
Sharing changed our quality of life, dramatically. And while this was a unique living situation and hard to replicate, it points to a truth: life improves when we’re in it together.
Of course, we need good boundaries. And we should keep our commitments and care for our families. But sharing is what God’s economy is made of. Wealth held in common is the way of the early church. Taking care of each other is what Jesus calls us to do.
Today, we commemorate St. Nicholas, who is known for his generosity to others. May the abundant sharing of good ole St. Nick inspire us all.
- How have you benefitted from the generosity of others?
- How might you stretch yourself to share in new ways, either large or small?
Let us pray. God of abundance, thank you for providing for us so generously. Show us how to mirror your generosity. When we have enough, help us to share what we have been given. When we lack, help us to accept help from our friends. Give us eyes to see those who are struggling and in need of support. Amen.
All italicized quotes, poems, and prayers come from An Advent Sourcebook (Liturgy Training Publications/Chicago, IL, 1986).