At the last meeting of the prayer shawl ministry at our church, we had a discussion about the way that the shawls/blankets/etc. that we make are distributed. Right now they go through the pastoral care team — so if there is a need, people can request something, either on their own behalf or for someone else. The pastoral team then knows of the need and can pray, follow up as appropriate, etc., and the crocheted or knitted item in question goes to someone who needs it. The question arose as to whether this was the best way to serve people who may, for example, feel uncomfortable going to the pastoral team. Should we just have a stack of blankets and shawls at the back of the church for people to take?
We decided not to go that route, in part because knowing people’s needs so that we can pray for them is an integral part of the ministry. But we also felt that if the blankets were simply out there for the taking, people would just — well, take them. We do want them to go to people, of course — that’s the whole point! But unless you do some sort of handicraft yourself, you probably don’t realise how much time and effort goes into making them. We want them to be given away with intentionality. And in one sense, we give them away because they are too valuable to sell.
Take the half-completed baby blanket pictured above, for example. Let’s imagine that I decided to sell it on Etsy instead of adding it to the donation stash. The pattern I’m using estimated that it would take 10-20 hours to make this project, depending on experience and speed. I haven’t really been keeping track, but I think that it will probably end up being about a twelve-hour project for me. Minimum wage where I live is $9.25/hr, which means that if I’m accounting for my time I’d have to charge $111. Add on my materials cost and it’s $116 just to break even. And of course, let’s not forget that I’d need to take catalogue-quality photos, spend time managing my Etsy store’s SEO so that people could find it, take it to the post office, and the like. So let’s round it up to $125 for a very modest profit after everything is accounted for.
Nobody’s going to buy my baby blankets for $125. Not when there are similar blankets on Etsy going for $25-40. Not when you can get perfectly lovely and serviceable blankets at Walmart or Target or Amazon for $15. I could never sell this blanket for what it’s actually worth. So the only thing to do is give it away.
God’s grace is like that.
If there were to be a price put on God’s favour, none of us could pay that bill. If there was a way to work to earn his love, we could work ourselves to death and still not have worked enough. The free gifts he offers us — his unmerited grace and favour, forgiveness and salvation, redemption and true flourishing — are valuable beyond measure. There is no way that he could “sell” those things for what they’re worth. So the only thing to do is give them away.
But unlike our basket of blankets and shawls, his grace is, so to speak, at the back of the church for anyone to take. There’s no vetting process. There’s no restriction. There is, amazingly, only gift.
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