It’s Raining Money!

Over the weekend a man at the Mall of America in Minneapolis stood on the upper level and dropped 1,000 one dollar bills over the railing as a choir performed “Let It Snow.” Serge Vorobyov of Apple Valley, Minnesota, said that he is going through some difficult relational and financial struggles and hoped that the positivity of throwing the money would come back to him. Instead, the Bloomington police cited him for disorderly conduct and banned him from the mall for a year.

As I read about this strange turn of events, a couple of thoughts came to mind. I was reminded of how skeptical and cynical we have become. We could never believe that someone would actually toss money without some hidden agenda. I suspect that this is the reason so few people actually took the time to collect any of it. Of course, ironically, Vorobyov did have a hidden agenda: he stamped the bills with his YouTube address and on his Facebook page he called the event a publicity stunt. Maybe our cynicism is well earned.

I also thought about the weeks we spent this fall engaging with the Fruit of the Spirit; I was reminded that for Christians, acts of kindness that are the result of the Spirit in us are most like Jesus when they are personal. Kindness that is rooted in the Spirit is fully revealed in relationships, not just a random act toward strangers we will probably never see again.

We hear of people who pay a toll for the next car in line. We read of people who clean up the street in front of someone else’s home. We come across stories of people leaving food anonymously on the doorstep of someone who is in need. We feel a sense of warmness inside because of these good deeds. We like the fact that people do something nice without drawing attention to themselves. Something feels right to us about anonymity: Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Don’t be like the Pharisees who give to be recognized by others. These words of Jesus certainly do address the problem of pride and recognition about what we do; it’s a necessary corrective. But is the fruit of the Spirit about anonymous acts or is it asking something more?

Random acts of kindness are better than random acts of violence, but random acts of kindness are low risk. You’re giving up some money but it’s all controlled. You do something once and then you can forget about the person, walking away feeling pretty good about yourself. The kindness of Jesus is much more relational and much more time consuming. We are not just interested in helping someone in need; we are also interested in knowing this person, caring for this person, loving this person, investing ourselves in this person so that we build a relationship that has the potential to be two-sided not just one-sided.

Let’s be honest: this is much more difficult and demanding. It carries a much higher degree of risk. But it’s the way that God works with us and the way Christ comes into our world in order to change the world.

At this time of year, we hear numerous admonitions about being kind and hopefully these admonitions are taking root in the hearts, minds and souls of people everywhere. But most of the time, these calls to kindness are limited to random acts that, quite honestly, anyone can do with minimal effort. They might cost us some money; they might cost us a little time and energy, but that’s it. The call of the Incarnation is involvement that is costly and present.

The kindness of the Christ Child means getting involved in others’ lives. It means spending time with people so that we have an idea of what they truly need. It means investing ourselves in others in a way that changes us even as our kindness hopefully changes them.

It’s unfortunate that this young man’s act of generosity was viewed negatively by so many people. Many of ours will be as well. Nevertheless, we are called to kindness that reflects the nature and action of Christ—during the Christmas season and all year long.