We had a little trick-or-treater last night, a toddler, dressed as a little robot: he was wearing a tiny cardboard box with buttons and monitors painted on, and he had a little headband on with antenna poking out of it. He was very, very cute and it took him a very, very long time with his stumbling steps to make his way up our driveway to the front porch.
His father, trailing behind, prompted him: “Do you know what to say?”
The little boy beamed. “Trick or treat,” he said, and then reached into his little pumpkin basket…
…and handed me the lone Kit-Kat inside.
His dad cracked up. “No, no,” he said.”That’s not quite how it works.” Undeterred, his son tried to press the little candy bar into my hand.
I was laughing too. “Thank you,” I said, “but this is yours! And I’m going to give you some candy too.” I put the Kit-Kat back into his little pumpkin. And then I dumped in an embarrassing handful of candy on top of it. “Happy Halloween!”
He looked at me. He beamed. “Trick or treat,” he said, and dug out the Kit-Kat, and handed it to me again.
“Thank you,” I said again, putting the candy back in his little hand and wrapping his fingers around it, “but I have a lot of candy here! So you can keep this.”
He beamed at me again and then wandered over to the garage to find my husband, who had just gotten home and out of the car. He held out the Kit-Kat. “Trick or treat!”
I don’t have any children, but I do love them, and this is one of the reasons why. They operate according to their own strange internal logic; they do what to them seems right in any given moment. Most of all, they have in themselves a capacity for an astounding generosity and sweetness that surfaces when you least expect it. No wonder Jesus loved them.
What struck me about the little robot-boy was how unconcerned he was by the fact that Halloween meant, apparently, giving his candy away; as they left our driveway I saw him trying to give his father, and a few passing trick-or-treaters, what was in his basket. He had no sense of entitlement or greed or expectation. For him, the fun seemed to be the journey, and smiling at people. Gathering things for himself seemed completely irrelevant, and his generosity was stubborn.
I wonder when we lose that, or how we unlearn it.
I wonder more and more if a sense of entitlement isn’t the curse of the modern Christian. I’ve been convicted about it lately, this concept that I have: that there are certain things in life that I deserve and should have, and that not having them represents a violation of some sort of pact God never actually even made with me.
If I work hard enough, then…
If I put in enough effort, then…
If I give it my all, then…
If I do everything God asks of me, then…
God does promise a return on our investment in Him. But – although God can certainly choose to bless us in these ways – He does not promise that such a return will necessarily be a worldly one. He does not guarantee (contrary to the promises of some false prophets) that we will receive success, or longtime good health, or wealth, or accomplishment.
The truth about the Christian life is this: some believers will “…through faith [conquer] kingdoms, [administer] justice…shut the mouths of lions…[quench] the fury of the flames…[escape] the edge of the sword” (Hebrews 11:33-34).
And some believers, alternatively, will be “tortured…[face] jeers and flogging…put to death by stoning…sawed in two…[be] killed by the sword…destitute, persecuted, and mistreated” (11:36-37).
Knowing this, then, we ought to know better than to feel entitled to anything. Who knows what we’ll get? The world is both fair and unfair. It is full of God’s hope, and it is also full of sin. Are there believers who will lead lives on earth that are blessed with material comfort and good health and accomplishment and earthly fulfillment? Sure. There are also believers who will experience none of those things, and it won’t necessarily be because they didn’t try hard enough or give it their all.
Some of the best believers I know are the ones who suffer the most.
And that’s why it’s foolish to pin our comfort and our hope on extraneous circumstances or on earthly things we feel “entitled” to. And once we let go of that, I think it’s possible to regain the spontaneous generosity and sweetness, the openness to the moment, that the little robot-boy on my porch displayed last night. When we’re just here to be present for the journey, to walk with our Father, to experience it all and to give as much as we can, then we’re going to be fulfilled. It’ll be an amazing journey no matter what.
I was glad to remember that last night. I’m glad God sent a little trick-or-treater to remind me.