Paying it back or free lunches?

firstchurch concert

We’re just back from 9 days of music in the deep South. Over those days I played, spoke and lead 13 separate times, from little lounge concerts to communion services to music workshops.

I’m a bit tired now that we’re home. I fell asleep before tea reading Karl Barth.

One memory hangs with me. On Friday night, I played a concert in Burns Hall at First Church in Dunedin. We had a wonderful turn out. Some old friends traveled a long way to come, while there was a pleasant blend of familiar faces and new fans.

At the end, a person asked why I hadn’t taken a door charge, or at least have a donation box. I couldn’t provide a decent answer. I stammered something about ‘being new at this’ which doesn’t hold that much water (does 11  years count as ‘new’).

Later on however I remembered why there was no charge. Last year, we invited people to partner with us to create the album that would become ‘Into the Deep’. We raised a bunch of money, but even more than that – we discovered that a swag of people wanted me to be making music, and were prepared to stump up to see it happen. One of the options to support the project had been for giving a particularly big pile of money, and in return I would come and do a concert at your place. I realised later that evening, that this was one of those concerts.

It was a shame I didn’t get to tell this person something more than ‘I didn’t think of it’, because the truth was much more interesting. The truth was this concert had already been paid for, and everyone who came along was enjoying the generosity of someone who hung back and took no credit. I received all the applause and gratitude that evening, and yet someone else had enabled it all to take place. It wasn’t until later that I saw just how ‘kingdom inspired’ the whole event was. We live in a world of ‘paying back’ – keeping track of who owes what and if we’re even with everyone. Yet God invites us into a world where something (perhaps ‘life in all its fullness’) has been laid out for us, and there isn’t a price tag attached. This makes us suspicious, but only because we live in a world where there isn’t anything as a free lunch. But this isn’t God’s world. Just ask the 5000 people in the wilderness if there’s such a thing as a free lunch!

So I caught a glimpse of God that evening. I was able to be generous with my music and my time because someone was incredibly generous towards me. That generosity freed me from having to charge people, from demanding or expecting payment, and it meant everything I gave was a free gift. Generosity begets generosity. Beautiful.

AUTHOR: Malcolm Gordon
6 Comments
  • Nice insight Malcs – grace before us, behind us, above us and below…
    Barth has kindly acted as a catalyst for me to sleep in the past – so you are not alone!!!

    May 20, 2013
    • Before us, behind us, above us and below….that sounds like a song lyric!

      May 20, 2013
  • Dave van Dorp

    Loved the show at Burns Hall! Keep up the good work.

    May 20, 2013
    • Glad you got to hear and enjoy the music live David

      May 20, 2013
  • This is a wonderful wee reflection Malcs, spoiled only by Martin’s near-heretical comments about Uncle Karl, and by the guttedness I feel in not being able to get along. Bless you mate, J.

    May 21, 2013
    • Yeah, still it was lovely to see Judy and Sinead on Sunday. In the words of another saint, ‘I’ll be back’.

      May 21, 2013

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