Christians Are Suckers
There’s a sort-of holy naiveté in following Jesus. The life of the Christian is marked by a willingness to lose, to be taken advantage of. We forgive even when our offender may not be repentant. We help even when our help might be taken for granted. We turn the other cheek. We are Godly chumps. Willing stooges.
Years ago when my career in ministry was first beginning, I was worried about losing money for our church in this way. People would come to us for help with food or lodging and I would do my best to divine their motives, to fact-check their stories. In some cases, I suspected that they weren’t really down on their luck so much as they were fond of handouts. But I couldn’t prove that, of course, so I gave away food and gas cards with heavy doses of suspicion.
I brought my concerns to my boss, the senior pastor, and he responded thus: “I would rather be taken advantage of for my generosity than get ahead with avarice.” (Ok, he didn’t actually use the word avarice, but that’s what he meant.) In other words, just as the mendicant’s motives matter, so do mine. I can only be responsible for my faithfulness to following Jesus’ countercultural, stooge-making call.
This pattern doesn’t only apply to money. We make ourselves holy fools when we choose joy in the face of struggle, when we insist on believing the best about others, when we answer a harsh word with blessing, when we forego our pound of flesh in favor of incarnate living.
Such actions make sense to Jesus-followers because the gospel answers deeper questions. If my value lies in a pecking order, I will sharpen my antlers and fight to the top. If my human worth and my net worth are measured on the same spreadsheet, I’ll be determined to strike the best deal. But if my deepest identity is spiritual — if I already see myself as a child of the King — I don’t need to fret over earthly storehouses or human accolades. I can give without suspicion. Laugh without care. Seek the good of others without worrying about losing face.
Sometimes, following Jesus feels like intentional naiveté. But our meekness isn’t ignorance. After all, we Christians, more than anyone, should know the sinful potential of the human heart. Our guilelessness is informed by a faith that there is something better than protecting our image and something worse than being duped.