Rawandan genocide survivor Clemantine Wamariya, in her memoir, The Girl Who Smiled Beads, learned an important lesson about sharing from her mother. “When slicing an orange to share,” her mother said, “you must never think, ‘This orange is mine. I’m giving you what’s mine.’ Rather you must think, ‘This orange is ours. We’re sharing what’s ours.’”
Quoted by Peter W. Marty in the Christian Century, blog, September, 2018.
I like that thought because it helps to keep me humble. If I think of the orange as mine, then I have a right to be proud. After all, I shared my orange with you. “I am a generous person,” I say, as I pat myself on the back.
Furthermore, if this orange is mine then I can regard myself as superior to you. I am the giver, you are the receiver. I am a step above you, but in my “generosity” I have condescended to share what is mine. The orange has literally become a “hand-me-down,” given by a superior to her inferior.
Finally, if this orange is mine, you now owe me something; at some future time I will expect you to return the favor. At the very least you owe me a debt of gratitude. But gratitude that arises from obligation is not real gratitude; it is simply payment of a debt.
However, if this orange is ours, I cannot be proud for I am only giving you what is your due. I cannot regard myself as superior because we stand on an equal footing. Nor do you “owe” me anything. If the orange is ours, then sharing it is an expression of our love for each other. It’s an expression of our common life together in Christ.
In Acts 4:32 we read, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” This was not some primitive socio-economic experiment, rather it was an expression of love. Knowing the love of Christ, they felt compelled to share with one another. We don’t have to follow their example by selling everything and putting it in a common pot. However, we do need to hold our possessions lightly and use them to bless those around us.