Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Meditations: School Supplies

First day of school. It’s funny that even as an adult, I still get excited about it and it doesn’t help that I’m addicted to school supplies. Since my older two children are homeschooled (which gives a whole new meaning to back to school) I have to live out my excitement through my youngest son, a fourth grader.

This morning I went through the ritual that parent’s with school age children know so well: packing the backpack. But when I checked my son’s bag, he had already attempted to pack it himself. Of course he put all of his school supplies (including all six of his composition notebooks) in there.

That’s the funny thing about younger children. They don’t understand that their supplies are supposed to last the whole school year. Nor do they realize that they won’t need all their supplies on the first day. I can still remember the years of lugging all my supplies to school only to bring them back home because I didn’t need them. I mean really, would I actually need a protractor the first day of school?

I can also remember freaking out if I didn’t have all the supplies on my list the first day of school. The list was gospel and to not have every item on it was sin. I also learned that the first week of school was a sort of grace period. The most work we did for the first day of forth grade was organizing our notebooks, getting our assigned seating right and collecting a million forms to take home to our parents (and now, I have a million forms to look forward to filling out this week).

Before I drop my son off to school, I’ll have to give him the school supply speech. Which is basically me encouraging him not to be too generous with his school supplies. I’m always challenged with this speech because he is very thoughtful and helpful. After all, I raised him that way. But it’s important that he learn boundaries with his generosity.

You see, I can still remember in school the children who never had any pencils or paper and would troll the class room borrowing from everyone else until they were fully stocked. They would prey on the students we were prepared. There is at least one child like that in every class year.

The problem with teaching my son to set a boundary is that as Christians, he should be giving. He should care for his neighbor. But his generosity must have boundaries. In Jesus’ teachings, he made it clear that we are to take care of those in need, not those who are simply unprepared and irresponsible.

Yes, we are supposed to help of the "least of these", but think about the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-12. All ten knew that the bridegroom was coming, but only five prepared for his delayed arrival by bringing extra oil. When the five foolish ran out of oil, they begged the five wise to share their oil. And the five wise refused. They said if they shared, they would miss the bridegroom. This may seem cruel to Christians who I call the “Red Cross.” Red Cross people are those who go out of their way to help everyone, even to their detriment. Again, balance is needed.

Take Galatians 6 gives great guidelines about helping others. In verse 2 reads, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This verse supports the idea that we should to reach out to those who are in need. But in verse 5 reads, “For each one shall bear his own load.” Just as we are supposed to help others, we should expect others to take care of their own responsibilities. Besides, always being the Red Cross to people who don’t need it only makes matters worse. They never learn responsibility. And they are responsible to carry their own load.

So share your supplies with those who are in need but be careful of those who are just irresponsible.

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