Pay it Forward

pay it forward
Image credit: Heather Bauer, Yellow Makes Me Happy

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

God is bringing you into a good place with flowing with streams, with artesian wells and aquifers springing up on hill and in dale, a place where staple crops, fruit vines and trees grow, a place where you will find delicacies like olives and honey in abundance, a place where you’ll never lack, and where you’ll find iron and copper. You’ll stuff yourselves full and thank God for the blessings of this good place.

But, make sure not to forget God or fail to follow God’s instructions, laws, and ways. When you’re stuffed full in the beautiful homes you will have settled down in, and when your livestock are multiplying, and when your money is accumulating, and when everything is going well, don’t think that you’ve come by it on your own and forget that it was God who brought you here from slavery in Egypt. Don’t forget who led you through the vastness of the desert wastes with its poisonous snakes and scorpions. Don’t forget that God made water flow from rocks and fed you all that time, through all that ordeal, and in the end did right by you. Don’t tell yourself that you’ve made all this by your own strength. But remember that your strength is on loan to you from God. It’s a loan guaranteed by a contract between God and your ancestors.

Moses must have been channeling Elizabeth Warren:

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there — good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that maurauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did. Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea — God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Whether you read Moses’ version or Ms. Warren’s, the bottom line is you’re never as independent as you think you are. And your success depends on the hard work and contributions of a lot of people. Many of whom you don’t even know. Many of whom are long since dead. Your success and prosperity is on loan to you. This Thanksgiving Week, three things to do:

  1. Take some time to be grateful, and to tell someone – heck, tell everyone – how grateful you are to them.
  2. Pay it forward. Don’t just say something to someone. Do something for someone.
  3. Don’t squander the gifts and advantages you have. Do something significant with them. Something that will make the next generation realize how much they have and be thankful.