Saturday, December 26, 2009


A couple of days ago I was visiting with some friends who have young children. The two cousins, a 17-month-old girl and a 15-month-old boy, were playing together on the living room floor. When the little girl was on the little rocking horse and the little boy decided it was his turn, he latched onto the rocking horse with one hand and grabbed a handful of his cousin's hair with the other. We came quickly to the rescue, but we needed to be there to facilitate the children taking turns with the toy because they weren't old enough to do it themselves.

Sharing is really difficult for small children. Their self-concept and their own needs are all they know or understand. The little boy will learn not to pull his cousin's hair when he thinks it's his turn to play on the rocking horse because his mommy won't let him have a turn at all if he does. Later, as he gets older, he'll begin to understand that other people have feelings and he'll start to grapple with the morality of the situation, but that won't necessarily make sharing all that much easier for him.

Even as adults we have trouble sharing. In America the trend seems to be to buy enough objects to go around so that sharing is no longer an issue. There are TVs in every room in the house so that each person can watch whatever program he or she wants at the same without worrying about the viewing preferences of other family members. In many households there is a car for each person with a driver's license so no one will have to modify his or her schedule to facilitate sharing a vehicle.

Of course, it's not always possible to just buy duplicate items for every person who might want to use something. There isn't usually a screwdriver or a can opener for every person. Most people have to share things like bathrooms, microwaves, kitchen tables, and even household bandwidth. Still, we aren't necessarily happy about the necessity of sharing. I remember back to childhood Christmases gone by when my sister and I would enter into complicated negotiations about when and how we could play with each other's new toys. Sometimes I wonder if things have really changed that much as our generation grew to adulthood.

The Bible shows us a lot of examples of sharing. People in the Bible shared food and clothing with others. Sometimes they even shared their homes with other people by providing hospitality to poor people and travelers. Some people sold everything they had—including prized possessions—and gave the proceeds to the poor when they went to follow Jesus. Things are just things, according to Jesus, and people are much more important.

As Christians we should try to move beyond our selfish tendencies to better appreciate how the things we have can bring joy to more people than just ourselves. After all, When we share our possessions with others, the gift of their happiness can be even more special than the satisfaction we feel when we enjoy those things alone. Watching TV is nice, but it's often nicer to watch TV with other people. Eating a tasty meal is satisfying, but it's even more satisfying when you share it with other people. Having a lovely home is enjoyable, but it's even more enjoyable when you open it up to others through hospitality. Playing with your toys and gadgets is fun, but it can be even more fun to watch someone else enjoying our prized possessions. As I recall, Christmas was a lot more fun when my sister and I played together with all of our new toys than if we just sat alone with our own half of the presents.

Now that Christmas is past and we don't feel that old pressure to be on our best behavior anymore, let's not forget the benefits of sharing. When we share, everyone gets to smile, and no one gets their hair pulled. From a Christian perspective, that's a pretty good deal. Smiles are, after all, contagious. So let's all challenge ourselves to share our Christmas presents today and to share as many of our possessions as possible throughout the year.

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