I sing today in praise of grandmothers. Those loving, accepting, wiser-than-they-let-on souls who never stop welcoming you no matter your age. They feed you at the drop of a napkin and pile your plate high with food prepared by ethereal love. Grandma would never think of holding back the mashed potatoes--she’ll give you a portion obscenely large, carbohydrates mountain-high flowing with gravy rivers.
A stingy granny is an oxymoron, a sad misfit of nature. Honestly, who thinks their grandmother wouldn’t give all she had? And yet--beloved as she might be--your grandmother doesn’t set a table like Jesus.
Consider these few words from Ephesians: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (4:7) Now stop and ask, what kind of portion would Jesus give? No one has trouble imagining the goodness of grandma. Why then is it so hard to imagine the grace of God flowing out in portions high and deep, prepared in a kitchen where the supply never ends and the Master Chef knows our every need?
Read it again: “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” So many of us stumble on the word "apportion." We let our fears tell us that Jesus will somehow hold something back because of our boneheaded behavior or headstrong ways. We are tempted to think he will only feed us when we’ve been good, or when he needs us to do something for him.
“Ahem, ahem,” says the short theologian with a flower in her hat. “Paul is talking about gifts like apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher. Always read the context,” she says. “Paul is talking about how Jesus provides for the church. It’s a specific kind of grace. We should not expect he gives everyone the same portion.” Then the confining logic of loveless interpretation begins to close us in.
Perhaps, I say. Perhaps that’s true. Except I’ve supped at his table, I’ve feasted with him in the here and now, before his great marriage feast is even under way. I can tell you he piles the grace high and deep. Not just forgiving grace: grace for hope, grace for starting again, grace for growth, the grace of leadership, community, love, and vision. He makes new wine for those who have already had too much. He feeds multitudes and leaves baskets more behind.
If we need context for this one verse I choose the context that reminds us “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” --or-- “Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.”
If you have trouble with the idea that Christ apportions grace, perhaps it’s because those who taught you that verse lost sight of what size portions Jesus gives. For a joyful mediation, imagine the Lord of glory ringing the bell on the front porch, calling out across the ranch:
Ho! Everyone who’s thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.