From the window seat where my wife does her morning readings I can see the hummingbird feeder I have hung on the window, as well as a tree about six feet away. I keep the feeder full, to provide food for any hummingbird that happens to come by. It has always given me great joy to watch these tiny beautiful birds as they hover at the feeder.
There is a single hummingbird though that comes to the feeder throughout the day and then perches on one of the branches of the nearby tree, driving away any other hummingbird that comes to feed. That bird did not provide the food, nor does it have any special claim to it, yet it refuses to share its bounty with the other birds for whom I also put it there.
It occurred to me this morning as I sat on the window seat how similar this was to the parable of the unforgiving servant, which happened to be the reading I had just finished. God spreads His grace throughout the world liberally, calling all to “drink” of His living water, just as I keep that feeder full and call any and all of those beautiful birds to come and be nourished. The saints of the world find that amazing grace and can’t wait to bring everyone they know to the “feeder” to share in this undeserved and unending bounty. I was blessed to come in contact with some of those saints who have brought me grace on top of grace.
But I still see far, far too many that are like that hummingbird perched in the tree. They discover this font of grace and then keep it to themselves, or at most share it with a few friends that they deem “worthy”. All others are essentially proclaimed “unclean” and driven away, at least until they can bring themselves up to the worthiness standard. Often this is expressed as the need for the “smaller, purer Church”, as if any of them would be pure enough to enter the True Church that is God’s Kingdom.
In the parable, the servant is forgiven his entire debt–an act of complete grace—but responds by brutalizing his fellow servant. Just as that hummingbird does at the feeder, he tries to hoard the grace to himself rather than to share the totally undeserved gift with anyone else. There is a total lack of understanding that each of us special because God has proclaimed us special and calls every one of us.
The parable ends with a warning that our failure to extend the grace given to us to those around us will imperil our final destiny. It is very similar in message to the parable of the sheep and goats that “what you did—or didn’t do—for the least of my brothers you did—or didn’t do—for me.” It is the very consistent message of Jesus that the mercy that we measure out to others is the measure that will accrue to us.
It gives me great pause to think how often I might be perching like a hummingbird, driving away God’s other hummingbirds from His feeder.