The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree, Galatians-8

Inspired by Shel Silverstein’s ‘The Giving Tree’

Galatians 8
Galatians 6:12-18
God accepts you ONLY as you are because of Jesus. Rest and live in that confidence.

Shel Silverstein tells a narrative of pure love and the model of Jesus in a short story about a tree and a boy in ‘The Giving Tree’. The boy and the tree grow together, with the tree sacrificing part of itself to serve and care for the boy in each phase of life. From providing a snack in the form of an apple, shade from the summer sun, lumber to explore the world and live an adventure, to finally having only a stump the now elderly man could sit and rest upon, the tree consistently lays itself down in the best interest of the boy. The boy consumes every provision the tree offers, growing from the nurturance, accepting the pieces of the tree to construct a vessel for his adventure, then resting on all the tree has left to give.

The lesson in this story is bilateral. The perspective we bring from our season of life and personal experience determine how we will apply the morals.

On one side, the tree is enabling the boy. It is giving, giving, and giving again until there is nothing left of itself. When we spend all of our time focused on emptying ourselves into others, we risk becoming a shell of a person. You cannot pour from an empty cup, we must take time to be refilled and maintain relationships which are mutually investing.

From the opposite side, the tree represents Christ. In the time Jesus spent walking the earth, He was growing with us. Physically growing, and exemplifying emotional and spiritual growth to ultimately bring us closer to God. He gave until there was nothing physical left He could provide. Broken, disabled, mangled and physically dead, all that remained was a place to sit quietly and rest. And still, He provided.

Who are you? The boy who consumes? The giver who enables and invites themselves into a situation of unilateral love and is left empty? Or the grown man who now sees all the sacrifice the tree has made to provide for you, even if your appreciation is long overdue?


For the Christian on the DONE side of love, the question is not ‘How much should I give?’ The question is, ‘How much do I dare to keep?’

Give. 1 Corinthians 16

1 Corinthians 16:1-4

Give as you have been given.


As you have been given, give.


Give as you have been given.


Grace. The ‘Why’ of the Incarnation.

As everything, He became nothing so that we could have everything.


Nearing the end of our Upside Down Christmas series, we’ve tackled who Jesus is, touched on the when and where. Today we addressed the most important question. Why?

Jesus is God’s creative expression of Himself, His ultimate biological sculpture. Grace is the reason for the incarnation.

Before we go much further, what is ‘incarnation’? Incarnation is physical manifestation. In biological context, it is conception and birth. In spiritual context, it is the crossing of realms from supernatural into natural. In Christianity, it is both. Jesus, as a physical extension of God, was physically born. He became human while remaining God.

Why lower Himself to a human level? Grace. What is grace? Grace is defined many ways, based on context. Spiritually speaking, it is a virtue of God which provides for human sanctification. It is through grace that we are inspired to generously serve, to be gracious, to one another. Boiling it down, Jesus is incarnated by grace to provide an example for us to show grace.

Grace is an over-used term in modern “Christian” circles, not because it is an attribute that should be limited but because its actual definition has been so diluted that the word is misused. Grace is not synonymous with apathy, it is the apathetic’s antonym. Some will throw the word grace around when arguing the “proper” Christian position on certain, controversial social issues. Grace, without understanding is grease, creating a slippery slope of incomplete theology and leading people deeper into chaos.

Properly defined, grace inspires us to forgive people. Grace is the ability to let go of the past. Grace is our motivation to generously serve strangers.

Being a gracious person is not as easy as flipping a switch in you head. Being gracious is more than doing good things, it’s also keep your motivations in check. When your acts of generosity are limited to those whom you deem “deserving”, you are no longer being gracious. When you serve to build your reputation, you are separate from grace. When you are so frustrated by a lack of gratitude from the ones you are serve that you stop serving, you are bankrupt of grace. Motivations are more important than to God than actions. To understand grace, we must fist understand ourselves. God is not looking for obedience alone, He is concerned with our hearts and our intentions. Until we recognize how bad we really are, we will never recognize how good God is or grasp the concept of grace.

 Today’s drawing is an image of incarnation, grace, and an ignorance to grace. The positive space shows several figures with their arms raised in worship. It is a rare occasion when I raise a hand in worship. For one, I can’t draw above my head well. Unless I am so moved that my body language speaks through movements like raised arms, I feel an awkwardness about physical expression, as if I’m not sure my motivations are pure enough to raise my hand. The figure on the right shares this uncertainty, with one hand raised and his attention directed below.

The negative space brings another dynamic into view. The white space the figures appear to worship wraps around either side of the page and back under the drawing. As the shaded area separates, a figure with arms laying outstretched toward the worshipers. This figure is the Christ, manifested in physical form but still fully God. The outstretched hands support the figures spiritually and physically. Of the figures, only the self-conscious character on the right notices this support. This figure includes a highlight on its face, an detail I included to imply he sees Christ. The others are all shadows, implying they are in darkness. Worshipers n darkness? Is this possible? Unfortunately, it is. Worship is only worship if it is expressed in genuine love. Your motivations matter.

If this Christmas is a season where you’re feeling lost in the bustle or a little depressed among the seemingly happy crowds, start giving. Don’t go emptying your bank account or washing car windows at stop lights, unless you feel so led. Start simple. Take a box of cookies to your neighbor. Call that friend you’ve lost touch with. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Spontaneously start singing Christmas carols in the food court. Will it be awkward? Probably. Will it be easy? No, if it were easy, everyone would do it. Will it be worth it? Definitely. Doors to serve people on significantly deeper levels will begin open and you will find that the more of yourself you give, the more you are filled in return.

The parts of our life we will hold most dear are the parts we gave away. – Donald Miller


2-24-13, City on a Hill 5, Shhh

Matthew 6:1-4

At first glance, it seems today’s theme is contradicting the last post. Bear with me and we’ll hash out what’s going on. In the fourth drawing from the City on a Hill series, we discussed the allegories of salt and light Jesus highlighted in chapter 5. The quick summary of his point there is to live out your faith, actively serving and giving to anyone in need. Jesus explicitly states, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see you good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) Just a few paragraphs later, we find this, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for the you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1) So which is it, Jesus? Do good works in front of people or not? Reading prescriptively would inspire just such a question. To understand what Jesus is really teaching, we must change our perspective to an outsider viewing the crowd he is addressing instead of inserting ourselves as  being the sole representative of the crowd.

In Matthew 5, Jesus is speaking to the working-class citizens who are listening. He is addressing the poor, entreating them to love and serve each other by giving of their time and money. He encourages them to do so visibly as a motivator for their fellow citizens to follow suit. In the first verses of chapter 6, the focus of his words are aimed at the rich and religious elite who, up to this point, have undoubtedly been cheering Jesus on! He says to them, don’t let pride be your motivator for serving. Everyone knows you have money and power, don’t flaunt it using philanthropy. Pride is not honorable in God’s eyes.

This made me consider the whole Occupy Wall Street movement, and all the sub-movements that stemmed from the media hype. The motivations, methods, and attitudes of both Wall Street and the Occupiers rank high on my cynical radar. I imagine Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount from a bench in Central Park, Occupy members mixed with some of the homeless community would be crowding up, front and center. Wall Street, NYPD on horseback, and many political leaders would line the outer skirts of the audience to enforce crowd control, but also within earshot of the profound words being spoken. With what little first-hand knowledge I have of either group, my media-driven understanding of the occupiers is freeing America’s poor from the corrupt, oppressive thumb of America’s elite. The elite are just out to make a buck, and the media only portrays the dark side of corrupt business, presenting it as the gold standard of all business. I filter all forms of media through a healthy screen of skepticism, no matter which side they seem to support, so I am convinced neither of the descriptions above are accurate. If they were, however, Wall Street would be like the Pharisee, guilty of flaunting their philanthropy to generate more prestige and likely convert that into new business opportunities. The occupiers would be just as guilty of ignoring the needs of those around them and spending too much time calling for Wall Street to be more public with their giving!

To sum all this up in today’s drawing, I have used the bottom half of the Guy Fawkes mask (at least a quick version of it) to represent the an abbreviated message of the Occupy movement; give. Extending from the bottom of the page is a hand with a single raised finger. The finger covers the lips of Guy Fawkes, positioned so that you hear a quiet whisper of “shhh” in the back of your mind.

The message I will apply yo myself from today is this; occupy yourself, selflessly giving to anyone in need, but do it quietly so that pride does not become your motivator.