Recently I delved into a 12th-century poem called ‘Ysengrimus.’ ‘Ysengrimus’ is a work of satire about a greedy wolf (named Ysengrimus) and a fox (named Reynard). In the poem, the wolf, the predator, becomes the prey in a cartoonish and humorous way. Reading more than two pages without chuckling is a challenge. How could one read about the theft of bacon, or about a wolf fishing in an ice hole and getting his tail frozen in the hole and not laugh a bit?
The greedy wolf in the story does convict me at times. I see myself in him, and I’m sure many of you will find yourself in him as well.
At one point in the story, the wolf says “I keep profits for myself because gifts aren’t returned when you need them, and I am afraid in advance of needing what I give away.”
Unfortunately, that’s me a lot of the time.
Do you ever find yourself in this mind frame?
There have been many times in my life where I could have given something away but I didn’t because of fear that I may need what I give away. When cleaning up, my mother would always say “if you haven’t used it in the past year then donate it.” It wasn’t easy to do that. Thoughts of, “well I haven’t used this in 8 years but what if this year is the year I need it” would fill my head and keep me from giving.
Remember the scripture. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34
When we fail to give a gift because we are afraid that we may need it tomorrow it becomes obvious that our trust is not in God. Our trust is in ourselves.
Let us all say a prayer to God asking for an increase in our ability to trust Him instead of ourselves.
There is another portion of the quote from the wolf that is perhaps even more telling.
The Wolf mentions that gifts aren’t returned when you need them.
Can a gift demand a return?
If you give a gift with the expectation of something in return it’s not really a gift. It is a transaction. I give you something, and you give me something later. How often do we (I’m guilty of it) give a gift with the hope of getting something back for it? You hear phrases like “you owe me,” which point to the fact that we view the gift as a transaction. We engage in transactions more than we give gifts. I’m guilty of giving gifts and expecting something in return. Sometimes I expect a thank you and don’t get it. Yes, even expecting a thank you (which is nice to receive) makes the event a transaction.
God has given us gifts that we cannot repay, mainly life and the hope of eternal life. Many times we don’t thank God for the gifts he gives us. If God were like the wolf, and it’s a good thing He isn’t, Christ, His only begotten Son would never have become man and conquered death by His death and bestowed life to the dead. Why would He? What would He possibly get out of that transaction?
Let’s all try something in this upcoming week.
Give a gift. It doesn’t have to be something physical. It can be time, empathy, even just a smile.
Give it without expecting anything in return. Don’t even expect the person to be grateful for the gift. Give it precisely because what you give was given to you.
Do not worry that you will not have what you have given when you need it.
“You received without paying, give without pay.” Matthew 10:8
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.