Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Give Until There's Nothing Left

In the penultimate chapter of Brennan Manning's book, The Furious Longing of God, Manning compares the sacrifice of Jesus as described in Paul's letter to the Philippians to Shel Siverstein's The Giving Tree.

How serendipitous to read this right before we celebrate Easter!

I'm going to jump right to his discussion questions, as that was the direction I was going to go with this post anyway...

Consider This:

Some have considered Silverstein's parable to be a story of selfishness and greed by the boy and irresponsible passivity by the tree. What do you think?

Personally, I love this story and I love to read it to my children. And every time I do I have to fight back tears by the end as I reflect on Jesus' sacrifice. Jesus, like the tree, gave until there was nothing left.

I remember reading a blog post a couple of years ago that blasted this book for the reasons above, namely the selfishness of the boy and what a bad example it sets for kids. While I understand the criticism, I never took the story as being about the boy and I make that point with my own children as I read it to them. The story is about the tree. Now is the tree irresponsible? Well that's a different question.

Our culture values hard work and self determination. We look down on those asking for handouts because they haven't earned it. From this perspective you might consider The Giving Tree as subversively socialist.

But if I change the lens to view the book through the eyes of Jesus, I don't see it that way at all. Jesus called us to love our enemies, to give our tunic if someone asks for our cloak, and that the world will know that we are his disciples by our love for one another. It is giving shade to the playful, food to the hungry, homes to the homeless, and rest for the tired. Just like the tree.

The first attitude scoffs at the panhandler begging for change at an intersection, knowing that they will only blow it on booze. The second gives anyway.

The first attitude looks down on others in need as bringing it on themselves. The second gives anyway.

The first attitude judges others based on their circumstance, the car they drive (or don't), the size of house they live in (or don't), or even the church they go to (or don't). The second gives anyway.

Now which of these attitudes is most like Jesus?

This post continues discussion on Brennan Manning's book, The Furious Longing of God. Please check out Jason Sasyzsen's and Sarah Salter's blogs for more discussion. The "consider this" questions come straight from the book- use them as a springboard for your own thoughts and feel free to share them here.


Jason Stasyszen said...

I had never heard of the giving tree until that blog post you mentioned, but after reading this chapter, I see yours and Mr. Manning's point. Jesus certainly gave until there was nothing left to give. He loved completely. He fulfilled everything the Father sent Him to do. To love and serve and give that way, we have to have Him working and living inside or we won't make it. Great post, Frank. Thanks.

HisFireFly said...

all I could see was Jesus in the giving heart of that tree...

Philip said...

Frank, I love this story. I also find myself fighting back tears every time I think about it. I think it was a perfect story to put into this chapter. Great thoughts!

Fatha Frank said...

@Jason, I remember biting my tongue hard not to comment. I respect her opinion, but I just didn't agree with it at all. And you're right- the tree ended up with nothing but a stump. But if we serve relying on Spirit in us, then we never run out of wood, so to speak!

@Karin & Philip, Agreed. And I think this weekend is the perfect opportunity to dust that book off and read it again.

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