The Giving Paradox

When my oldest daughter was a small child, we aquired a copy of Shel Silverstein's book, The Giving Tree. This is quite a popular little book; many people I know can recall reading it to their children, or having it read to them.

I was surprised to find out at some point, that there is actually contraversy surrounding this small children's book. There have been academic symposiums to discuss it, courses taught on it, book written on it. Go figure! (I suppose we could call this the Jabez phenomenon; in that case, a whole movement sprung up around a couple of seemingly insignificant verses in a book hardly anyone reads thoroughly.)

Much of the supposed "contraversy" comes from the selfless act of giving by the tree, and the seemingly insatiable selfishness of the boy. "This is a bad role model for children!" some will have you believe. Is it?

I would suggest that we do not confuse the ethics of the giver with the ethics of the taker. Some would say that the tree is an "enabler." But I would disagree. There is nothing destructive about the boy's desires. I wouldn't even call him lazy. He wants money, so he can buy things, but he has no way to earn the money. He is willing to work for it. He wants a home, which he is willing to build. He wants to leave where he is and see the greater world, which is the opposite of lazy. Finally, he just wants companionship and a place to rest. Are those really too much to ask?

People say "Well, the boy gives nothing to the tree!" Really? I guess those people have never felt the joy and satisfaction when a child comes to them for something. A child who tries and struggles and finally comes and says "I need your help, because I know that you are the one who can help me." Personally, I live for those days.

I imagine that that is how God feels. Ephesians 6:18 says "...pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests..." Surely we can go to our heavenly Father with all kinds of needs, great and small. He will never complain about it; indeed, it is His desire and delight that we do come to Him first. And like the Giving Tree, He will always have just what we need. it is ours for the asking.

Of course, we may not always get what we want, but that's another topic.


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