Is everything that we do for someone else a transaction, a barter, a tradeoff? It would be easy to come to that conclusion.
So much of our interaction with others has a certain amount of “I am expecting something in return.” “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” “I’ll tell you if you tell me.” “I’ll cover your back, you cover mine.” “I’ll do the job for $75.” “I’ll hire you if you have an in with the senator.” There is even a Latin expression that everyone in politics knows very well – quid pro quo – “this for that”.
The list could go on, and on, and on. You could even do an experiment in a group activity to see how many illustrations would be given in 5 minutes. In fact, the “never ending examples” might reinforce the initial question – everything, it appears, has its price even in personal relations.
But, there is good news!!! The trade-offs might be wide spread, but I am happy to say that they are not a universal nor inescapable fact of life. . . . .
He walks into the house after a tiring day, and he is greeted by a beautiful smile from his wife birthed only in love. . . . . He walks up behind his six year old granddaughter without her knowing it, touches her shoulder while saying, “Joy.” She turns around with a grin from ear to ear and says, “Hi, grandpa” and lifts her arms to be picked up so she can give him a hug. She is simply happy to see grandpa. . . He finishes reading a book and says to himself, “This book is too good to not tell Jim about it. In fact it is too good to not buy a copy for Jim. I think he would really enjoy it.” . . . . He says to himself, as he mixes the eggs into the sugars while making the dough, “The kids will like these chocolate chip cookies.”
These were not quid pro quo actions. They weren’t done looking for a pay-back. They were generated in a love that did not need to be to be bought. They were done because the other persons deserve expressions of love. They were done because it was simply appropriate to recognize their worth.
Why make this point? I do so because our quid pro quo outlook on life can even characterize not only our relationships with other people, but also our relationship with God. I asked a group of students to do a little analysis of their relationship with God in terms of how much they envision God as a means to their ends. The question surprised them. But, once they understood what is involved in seeing God as a means versus being the end, they had the new surprise of realizing that “buying God” is more ingrained than they realized. Then, they were ready to consider that giving ourselves to God is not meant for what we get out of it, but because “loving God” and “giving to God” is simply what is appropriate for who God is.
God smiles at me, He gives me a hug, I smile at God, I give God a hug. We are loving each other, not buying each other. . . . And God said, “that is good.”