Since we’ve been having such nice weather recently, the other day I went to a local cafe for lunch, so that I could sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. I ordered a large bowl of potato and leek soup, which came with a very lovely bread roll. This was not the sort of hard, inedible thing you get at a wedding reception or charity dinner, but rather a beautifully shaped, crusty, oblong bread, something like a miniature baguette.
I had just sat down to eat my soup outside at one of the cafe tables, when a woman came up to me off the street. “Can you buy me something to eat?”, she asked. Not having any money to hand, I offered, “Well, I could give you my bread,” since I had not even touched the beautiful little loaf yet. The woman then picked up the bread, looked at me with something which I can best describe as disdain, turned around and threw the bread in the street.
Chances are, as you read the forgoing, your first reaction was to criticize this woman for a lack of gratitude. Or perhaps your reaction was that I should have ignored her altogether. Or perhaps you think it would have been better not to offer her anything at all, if I didn’t have any money I could give her so that she could go decide for herself what she wanted to eat. Or you might have reached the conclusion that this poor woman was simply not right in the head, for if she was mentally “all there” and hungry, she would not have thrown away perfectly good food.
All of these things are possible ways to look at this incident. However I don’t want the reader to spend too much time thinking about the motivations of this particular woman or of this particular scrivener. Instead, I’d like you to think about a more important lesson that we might be able to draw from this experience.
When we think about it a little more deeply, isn’t what took place a rather striking example of what sin is like? Throughout our lives, God always offers us what we need. Too often, if what He offers us doesn’t conform to what we want, what do we do with it? We simply throw His gift away, and move on thinking we will get something better from some other source.
Now before you or I or anyone else starts thinking, “I would never do something like that,” I would suggest that it is time for all of us to swallow a big dose of humility. Go read about King David or St. Peter, and ask yourself: do I really think so highly of myself, that I am better than they? If the answer is, “Yes,” then frankly you have some rather significant problems to work out in your little gray cells. For I assure you, far better men than you or I have simply thrown away God’s gifts many times, and indeed you and I are doing so far more often than we might care to think. While this incident with the throwaway bread was an isolated one, I hope that what we can take away from it may be beneficial to many of us.
As a matter of fact, this story has a terrific application for the immediate future. Over the next few weeks, we are going to spend a great deal of time asking and answering the question, “What do you want?”, as we go about buying things for one other. Yet how many of the things we say we want, are also things that we actually need? This something all of us should be thinking about, not just during the materialist nightmare known as the “Holiday Season”, with all of its meaningless excess, but more importantly as we consider the meaning of the spiritual nature of this time of year, which is of far greater importance than anything we may give or receive.