What can I give back to God
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation – a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do
And I’ll do it together with his people.
(Psalms 116:12-14, The Message)
(Quoted by Bono before “Where the Streets Have No Name”)
The blessings of God are a tremendous burden and weight. Who am I to deserve what I have? Who am I to squander my wealth while so many die hungry? Growing up you never quite realize.
It hits home on a crisp Fall evening after Daylight savings time, when the night sky is unusually dark, and you realize the darkness has set in for a season. You walk a little faster, and steal a glimpse inside an apartment window as you pass by. That first-floor dwelling looks shabby and crowded. You spot several children on the floor, crammed into what must pass for a bedroom. A window is broken, covered for what seems like years with plywood. The security door usually hangs open, blowing in the wind.
And I walk on by. I only notice in the first place because I’m on foot, impoverished enough to take the bus to work, but rich enough to not know what life is like at the bottom of the rung.
I am one of the elite. I was raised in one of the richest counties in America. I grew up in a loving family with plenty of money. I shouldn’t sugarcoat things; we weren’t perfect. For many years my parents’ marriage was a facade, until the kids were old enough and to let it crumble to pieces. A few years later it was patched together again with the grace of God.
But we didn’t lack anything growing up. There was food on the table, we were healthy and had access to doctors. We had braces and glasses when we need them, even if we didn’t want them. We had a yard to play in, and yard to work in. I had my own bedroom, bigger than my brothers, with my own desk and dresser. I had toys, I had a bike, I had my assorted collections from over the years. We went out to eat on Friday nights, and my brother and I each got two quarters for two arcade games, to pass the time while we waited for our food.
My schools had everything you could ask for. In fourth and fifth grade I entered a magnet program. I took accelerated classes. My teachers had the materials they needed, every child in every class had a copy of the book they needed. Many kids even had the resources to go buy their own copy if they wanted.
When it came time to drive, my parents had the resources to provide me with a car. A job came with the car, to help pay the insurance. But gas and many of the repairs were covered by the bank of Dad. Even when I managed to screw up I was forgiven and life went on.
I received the higher education of my choice, and although I’m still paying for it, strapped with the middle-class luxury of debt, half of it was covered by my parents. My wife and I were married in a church with all the trimmings, thanks to the generosity of our parents. My college wheels turned into the down payment for my first car when my parents bought back the truck they gave me for school.
I live in a modest apartment, fully furnished, heated and air-conditioned. Water flows from the faucet, hot or cold. My wife and I drive a 2002 model car. We both have jobs we enjoy, not exactly making the big bucks, but making money enough to cover our expenses and save a little for the future.
I live in a free society and have the freedom to do what I want, say what I want, and believe in what I want. I worship my God with no penalties or restrictions.
I live in an age of amazing technological advancements. We’re so advanced we have to find ways to burn off the extra food we consume. We invent ways to be active just to give ourselves exercise — so different from a few hundred years ago when the sweat of a man’s brow also kept him from being overweight. Everything in my life is designed to make things faster, all so I can get to playing with my myriad of toys.
I’m writing these thoughts on a top of the line computer, connected to the Internet where I can access vast stores of information and connect with people all across the planet.
I am the favored majority. I am the favored race, the favored gender, the favored religion, the favored economic class. I live in a land of vast opportunity. Resources are available, safety nets are in place, others are watching my back.
What can I give back to God for the blessings he’s poured out on me? This is the question of my generation, the question anyone like me must answer with our lives. I cannot, in good conscience, squander my prosperity. I cannot, in good conscience, live for myself. I am not my own. I was bought with a price, and I must repay that debt. I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do, and I’ll do it together with his people.