"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?
For from God and through God and for God are all things." - Romans 11:35-36a
I have a friend who insists on paying for everything. He'll slide his credit card past mine to the server, buy the movie tickets in advance, or persuade the bartender he's a better tipper. Whatever it takes to pick up the check.
This leads me to drastic measures: excusing myself from the table mid-meal to pay or slipping a twenty in his glove compartment on the ride home.
At its best, our one-upmanship might be an attempt to outdo one another in generosity. But I fear it is more often an anxious desire not to be in the other's debt.
I'm most comfortable when things are fair and square. If we're splitting the bill evenly and my entrée cost $3 more, at least let me get the tip.
As Paul points out, that math gets a lot more complicated with the creator, redeemer, and sustainer of the universe. If God ordered the appetizer, but I ate half, who pays what?
It doesn't matter. Because I could buy spring rolls from here until eternity, and it wouldn't begin to equal a summer Saturday with my family (even in the humidity of Gainesville).
I am utterly beholden to the one from whom, and through whom, and for whom are all things. And that is surprisingly freeing. Knowing that I can never repay the gifts of God, I can release the anxious tit-for-tat and lift my voice with Paul's in praise.
Yours are the spring rolls and the friend that buys them, the thick wet air and the shady trees that give relief, yours the heart that expands in gratitude.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.