Am I A Bad Borrower?
By Beth Demme
When I was in elementary school, maybe third grade, I borrowed a book from the school librarian. Not from the school library (these days known as a “Media Center”), but from the librarian herself, Mrs. Whaley. Every Christmas she read The Cajun Night Before Christmas to us and I L‑O-V-E-D it. I loved the story, I loved the illustrations, and perhaps most of all I loved the tradition of hearing Mrs. Whaley read it in her terrible fake Cajun accent.
I begged Mrs. Whaley to lend me that book. I was a precocious, and persuasive, eight-year-old and I won the day! She lent it to me, but as I remember it, she clutched the book to her chest and said, “I will lend this to you, but take very good care of it. I brought this book in from home and if something happens to it, I won’t be able to replace it.” As she reluctantly handed it over, I grabbed for it and ran (not really—I’ve never been a runner—but that’s how the scene unfolds in my mind after more than three decades of accumulated dust on this old memory).
Somehow, while it was in my possession, the book got ruined.
To this day, I have no idea how it happened. It looked like I dumped a can of pea soup over each page and then left it outside to bake. I promise I didn’t, but that’s what it looked like. I avoided the library for weeks. I was so ashamed I couldn’t bear to face Mrs. Whaley. She was such a nice lady and she worked so hard for us. She put on elaborate puppet shows and never judged us for checking out the easy books. Her face was a collection of three elements: kind eyes, round pink cheeks, and giant glasses. (Eyeglasses were way bigger in the 1980’s, it’s a fact.)
A few weeks later, after Mrs. Whaley asked me about it several times, I reluctantly brought the book back. She was so disappointed I thought she might cry and I thought I might cry, too. To her credit, she was still always kind to me, but for the remainder of my time at that school, I carried a little bit of guilt with me every time I went into the library. To this day, I don’t like to borrow things. I worry they will be damaged, or broken, or lost.
There is a certain responsibility that comes with being a borrower.
I thought about that ruined book this week while reading the Gospel of Matthew. The Pharisees (the Jewish religious elite) and the Herodians (the Jewish social elite) try to test Jesus. They ask “It is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17). (This story is told in all three of the “Synoptic Gospels.” Click here to learn more about the synoptics.)
Jesus responds with a question, “Show me the coin used for the tax. Whose image is on it, and whose inscription?” The Pharisees and Herodians pull out a coin and acknowledge that the coin has Caesar’s image on it. The inscription would have identified the current emperor as the son of the divine emperor who preceded him. (Click here for an example.)
This presents a whole host of problems for the Pharisees and Herodians who shouldn’t have acknowledged a deity other than God, but Jesus doesn’t have to point this out. Instead, he says, “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
Give to God what is God’s.
That reminds me I am a borrower.
Everything I have, everything I am, everything I do, even what I think, is a gift from the God who is creating and loving me, day by day.
There is a certain responsibility that comes with being a borrower. A good borrower takes care of what is borrowed.
I was a bad borrower when Mrs. Whaley lent me her precious book. I didn’t take good care of what was entrusted to me.
What about my life? Am I taking good care of what has been entrusted to me? Am I taking good care of myself, my time, my talents, and my possessions? Am I giving to God that which is God’s?
It’s worth reflecting on this week.
What about you? Are you a good borrower? Do you think of your time, talents, possessions, etc. as good gifts from the God who loves you? Do you give to God that which is God’s? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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