Do not withhold good from those who deserve it,
when it is in your power to act.
A typical school day is underway, our kitchen table piled high with books and stacks of paper, the boys all slouched in various poses of disinterest and longsuffering. The oldest has a strand of chewing gum wound tightly around his forefinger. The middle guy has worry lines carved deep into his forehead (he's silently praying that there will be no Math today). The youngest has mentally left the building; eyes glossy and head planted resignedly on top of his binder, he's not even feigning awareness.
"Time for Bible memory review," I chirp, affecting as much enthusiasm as I can muster. At least one of us needs to be perky, right?
They haul themselves upright and struggle to focus. They chant the first 26 verses of Proverbs 3, gradually coming to life as funny voices come into play, pacing starts, and boyish rowdiness takes over. This is more fun than we remembered.
We're ready to add a new set of verses to our list. We read the first bit out loud: "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act."
"What does this verse mean, guys?"
Their answer comes quickly and, instantly, my lifetime of self-righteous judgement is challenged.
"What does it mean to 'not withhold good from those who deserve it'?"
Tripping over each other in their rush to be the first to answer, all three explain that it means to do good to everyone. I'm surprised by that answer. I challenge, "But it only says to do good to those who are deserving..."
"That's everybody, Mom. None of us is more deserving than another. Everyone should have a chance to have good things happen to them. Even if they've done something nasty before, we could give them another chance."
A simple answer; another turning point in my Christian-culture thinking. I've read that Bible verse dozens of times. Dozens. And each time came away frustrated because it didn't give criteria for "those who deserve it." And each time feeling I fell short of being deserving myself.
I'm going to simplify how I attempt to express Jesus to my little world; I'm going to try to do good, when it's in my power, without withholding. I'll set aside the measuring stick and the list of do's and don'ts that make a person deserving of goodness in my own eyes. Because, like my sons are teaching me, everyone should have a chance to experience kindness.