As our car pulled into the drive late one evening after we’d been at a friend’s party, I noticed
something disturbing. I’m pretty sure I just saw dents where there were watermelons earlier today. I was determined to ignore it until the morning, to make sure my son would get off to bed quickly without being side-tracked.
The following day saw our family standing round in the driveway, with lots of gesticulating, hands on hips and speculation as to the identity of the culprits. The melons were indeed missing – every
melon bigger than about 10 or 15cm was gone. We’d had a few really big ones which we thought
might have been ready to pick the following week. This is the first time we’ve grown watermelons,
and these would have been our first fruits. So it was a bitter blow, especially for a 7-year- old with his finely honed sense of justice and fairness.
Later that afternoon, the doorbell rang, and my neighbour said, “I’ve got a confession to make.” She had just discovered that her kids, and their cousins from the country, had smashed them the night before, for fun. “I’ve told them their trip to Adventure World is cancelled, and we’re going to buy you 3 or 4 watermelons to replace them.” (I suggested one was quite sufficient for the lesson.)
This would have been a hard conversation for any parent, to stand at a neighbour’s door and admit
their children’s wrongdoing. What makes this ten times harder for my neighbour is that she an
Aboriginal single mum, trying so hard to bring her kids up well. She doesn’t want them to grow up to conform to the negative stereotypes. And here was a situation which bought into almost every
stereotype that’s out there about Aboriginal kids and parents. The courage it must have taken for
her to stand on my doorstep, rather than sweeping the evidence quietly into the bin, was incredible.
Would I react angrily and sever the tenuous friendship that had been developing over several chats
in the driveway? And yet she faced it squarely.
It didn’t cost me anything to respond with grace. I could have been mad at what the kids did, but
mostly, I was grateful that she had admitted it – it would have done our friendship a lot more harm if I had been constantly wondering if her kids were the culprits. And I know that many country kids are used to finding inedible pig melons on the side of the road and smashing them for fun – it almost certainly didn’t occur to them that these melons belonged to someone. A touch of “walking a mile in her shoes” and recalling God’s immense grace to us while we were still sinners goes a long way in a situation like this. And in this spirit of grace and generosity, we were able to give her a lovely ripe watermelon a few weeks later – forgiveness and reconciliation in action, rather than just in words.
She paid it forward, not only feeding her kids, but sending some into one of the kids’ kindy class and taking some to the school where she works.
Since then, our watermelons have been flourishing, and we have had far more than we could
manage ourselves. What a joy that has been. Our financial means are small, so generosity with
material things is something that’s not often easy to achieve. These watermelons have not only
given us delicious, sweet fruit, but have provided a way for us to bless others. Visitors coming to our house for meetings or Bible studies have snacked on chunks of watermelon. Countless friends have received large or small chunks. Our evening service at church has had watermelon after dinner a few times. I fed the entire school where I work one lunchtime. Two or three nice big ones went along to our church camp. It’s been fun.
As I’ve enjoyed this opportunity to be generous, I have reflected on how God’s economy is so
different to ours. Psalm 112:5 says, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice,” and then in verse 8, “Their hearts are secure; they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” So often, we try to create our security by
hoarding what we have. God says security is found in generosity! I love how God’s ways are so often inside-out and upside-down compared to ours.
You’ve probably heard this verse in a sermon on tithing at some point – “Remember this: Whoever
sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
I think God’s view of generosity is about so much more than money. I think it’s a whole of life, and a
whole of self, response. How do we use our time? Our knowledge? Our gifts? It’s not about having a
lot, but giving out of God’s grace to us.
A few years ago, I knew a primary school student from a very poor family. One day, I was paired with her in a group activity. From a set of cards about strengths of character, I had to pick three which I thought characterised her. One of my choices was “generosity.” Financially and materially, she had nothing to give, but as the eldest in a family of several kids, I saw her giving cheerfully and
unstintingly of herself to her younger siblings. Her eyes opened wide as I explained why I had made this surprising choice. “I’ve never thought of myself as generous before!” And she walked out about a foot taller. She had learned that generosity came from a big heart, rather than from a fat wallet.
Ultimately, our generosity is a response to God, who is the ultimate example of generosity. Look at
God’s response to us. Rather than washing His hands of sinful humanity, God’s response to our sin is not to withhold His love, but to give His love. In essence, He says, “You don’t love me? Let me show you how much I love you!” And He didn’t give that love in some very generic and painless way, but in the most personal way possible, through giving His Son – giving Himself – as a sacrifice for our sins.
God’s love is lavished on us despite our rejection of Him. It is given freely but at great cost. How can we respond to this kind of love and grace? I believe it is by living generously – loving God generously, loving others generously, and seeking to embody His grace in all we do and say.