Some years ago I walked into the local Sam’s Club warehouse store and was confronted by rolling racks filled with heavy winter parkas. Digging through this display, I found one that fit, a big old puffy down-filled thing and the price was right. To be honest, I seldom wear it because it’s just too warm. But on rare occasions the weather outside is too bitter cold and I can slip this thing on over just a t-shirt and go out for extended periods with comfort.
Oddly enough, I’ve owned a lot of very nice coats and jackets over the years. Some I’ve simply worn out, but plenty I’ve given away for one reason or another. I’ve always kept that down-filled parka, though, and I doubt I’ll ever give it away. I don’t loan it out, either. Even for the several years I lived in Texas where it virtually never got below freezing, I kept that thing in my closet. It still looks half-way new, still fits over my bulky frame. Today it was blistering cold and windy when I went outside the pick up trash and I wore that coat. When our cold snap is gone, I’ll push it into the back of the closet until the next time.
Perhaps that symbolizes something much more important: In each of our lives, there is something, some part of us, that God says we cannot give away. It belongs to Him alone. It’s a critical part of who we are in His Kingdom. Letting that thing slip away is betrayal; it’s too much to ask. I know because I had to learn the hard way.
Like most people who grew up in a Western society I was saddled with the mythology of being “nice.” Our culture has this crazy image of selfless giving that goes astray from the biblical image. Sure, it’s okay to realize that at some point holiness will claim your life. But God is the One who decides that and He will tell you, not someone else, where to draw the line. But that false image strives to crowd out the truth, holding up the false “self-denial” that blasphemes God by stealing His authority and pretending some human authority can speak for Him. That might work with parents and their children, but even that is supposed to fade away over time.
Thus, the bogus social expectation of being “nice” becomes an anti-Christian tyranny.
God, and God alone, decides what you must keep for Him. No earthly authority can usurp His authority. God is the One who calls you into His service. He is the one who equips you to do and give certain things for His glory. There’s nothing wrong with placing the needs of others in the same basket as your own, but it’s a damned lie that your needs have to come out of that basket. Yet, that is the image raised by Western society, because it’s founded on the elitist nonsense that your entire being can be owned by some mere human. It’s blasphemy. You can delay your self-gratification; you can share, but starving yourself for others is not noble. You cannot come back to serve again if you die; no one but God can demand that. And He doesn’t appoint other humans to tell you when.
In particular, it is utterly wrong for anyone to insist that human need is the measure of your giving. In the first place, most humans have no good clue what another human needs. This is another part of that business of usurping the Creator’s authority. It’s not a question of human need; that’s a bottomless pit. It’s a question of what He has placed in your hands. Further, it is between you and God to decide what you are supposed to give and under what conditions. No other human has a claim on you in that sense.
Part of the confusion our society has over this is the blatant rejection of God’s standard for social structure in the first place. Your blood or covenant kin can make some pretty strong demands, but Westerners are mostly clueless how that works. We have no good frame of reference about that. Instead, our society demands that you bow the knee to the state (“society”) as your god, and its minions as angels. This is the ultimate lie, the worst blasphemy. So we end up having to make some pretty shocking rejections of our society’s expectations and let them pound sand.
Whatever it is our society means by being “nice,” it’s not the same as good morals. So all that huffy accusation about being selfish, or prejudiced, or greedy, or whatever — it’s just noise. Don’t give them the time of day, because it’s the shrieking of Hell. Call them clueless and refuse to deal with them until they come on God’s terms. He will protect you and carry you through the fire without even the smell of smoke on you; it’s no different from the story in Daniel 3. Don’t bow the knee to their false gods. Don’t let someone else wheedle you into vicariously fulfilling their mission dreams; God didn’t call you to their ministry.
God didn’t call us to be nice, but to be merciful and bring Him glory.