He who robs his father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong” he is partner to him who destroys. Proverbs 28, verse 24.
We rob our parents. I never got into Dad’s stash of coins and took them to spend like my children have. And you didn’t hold your parents up at gunpoint and demand something from them. Neither you nor I could likely be considered criminal in how we deal with our elders; it’s just not how most folks I know live their lives.
But we rob them all the same. My daughter Sammie’s favorite childhood book was “The Giving Tree.” If you’ve never read it, The Giving Tree is the story of a tree that loves a little boy as he grows up and willingly gives up everything so the boy can be happy. All through the book, no matter what the boy wants, out of love, the tree gives it…and it’s never enough. You could say that the self-focused boy is robbing the tree while thinking “it’s not wrong” and always wanting more. In the end, the tree is destroyed (and yet not) to satisfy the boy’s selfish hunger for more.
It’s robbery. The boy in the book robs the tree of its life. My children rob me of my patience, my income, and my time. You rob your parents in ways near and dear. We each rob our elders of respect. Don’t believe me? Next time you get stuck behind Grandma on the road and she’s going 30 in a 50 zone, check your emotions. I’m thinking “robbery.” God put us here to learn to love Him and yet we don’t really do that much, do we? Got skin, got sin. We’re thieves. It’s ingrained in how we live our lives. We’re little better than Tony Soprano, a petty thief bent on larger-scale destruction. What we say and do hurts. We’re robbers.
And yet. Those are two very important words, you know. And yet it’s not robbery. Can you rob those who give their consent to it? I love my kids and want the best for them. I don’t want to be the Plano Parent or Helicopter Mom who indulges their kids too much. There’s nothing more grating to me than spoiled children. But each of us is given only so much time on the earth and parents give those things because they can, not just because they have to. It’s a privilege to parent, a duty of love. Out of love, our parents devote time, talent, and treasure to us, but because we’re kids, it’s not enough. We always want more and yet…and yet sometimes it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter because of love and grace. Our model is Him who created us for those things. He is a parent too. Yes, he created us as fallible humans with the capacity to both love and hurt. He chooses the love; we unfortunately choose to hurt and yet the love just keeps on coming. It is a gift of grace, a mercy and perfect adoring love that we can’t even begin to understand. When I rob God of the love, respect, and worship in all things that He asks and deserves, He still pours out His mercy. When my kids rankle me for the hundredth time, talking back and smarting off, I still love them unconditionally and provide whatever I can for their learning, happiness and safety. I’m betting you do the same.
Now, I’m not going to be naïve and insinuate that everything is hunky dory in how we get along. Some people have genuine, even righteous, conflict while others just have conflict. I know of one friend who is one of the strongest men you could think of, but around his dad he is like a little puppy. Still another friend is having a long-term fight with her elderly mother over issues the both of them have let percolate for years, yet in my outside estimation, it seems insignificant. If you asked my kids, they would probably tell you that my wife and I are nagging, overbearing, harping parents who ask too many questions.
Robbery. It’s still little more than petty robbery. But you can’t rob the willing. If it will help others know they are loved and saved, take it all. It’s just stuff or money or even time: even if we can’t get more of those things, they’re just things. If it helps you, you’re welcome to it. I challenge you now to think the same.
So what do we do about it? You know the answer. Today is five days before Christmas. Take it to the manger and see what love looked like there. Better yet, take it to the Cross and see why the manger was just a fore-shadow of the amazing love to come. Check the intent, put down the goods, and sit in learning wonder of what real love looks like. Take up that challenge and let Him in to rework you.
I didn’t have nearly the time I wanted with my own father. My mom is in her eighties now and is infirm, in decline actually; there isn’t enough time left to say and do a lifetime of things that I would have like to have done with my parents. It is what it is, though, and rather than focusing on that, rather than robbing them further, I will prefer now to be content with what is. To model Him who taught real contentment and love. I’ll put down the gun and the goods and take my own advice, and stop being a party to the destruction.