Wearing the Uniform Is Not the Same As Playing the Game

Image by Hans Benn from Pixabay

Both of my parents attended college during the depths of the Great Depression.

My father, fifth in a family of twelve children living on a dirt-poor farm, had his tuition paid by a pair of beneficent aunts. To raise money for books and living expenses, he put his card-playing skills to work. He financed his education by playing poker.

My mother lived at home with her parents. She had access to a car, however, and raised cash for her tuition by ferrying other commuting students to and from college, charging them a nominal fee.

Mom often told the story about a certain passenger who was continually late with her payment. This woman assured my mother she would pay her in full at the end of the semester, rather than paying weekly, as all the other students did.

On the final day of the semester, she asked Mom to wait outside of her house while she ran in to get the payment.

She dashed inside and returned with an old cracked vase, which she handed to my mom. “You’ll get your reward in Heaven,” she informed my astonished mother.

I hope Mom is finally enjoying her reward.

There are some verses from the sixth chapter of Luke that may be the hardest ones in the Bible to put into practice. Maybe Mom’s deadbeat passenger was referring to this one when she told Mom her reward would have to be delayed:

[L]ove your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When I was a teacher, I was frequently asked to contribute to my students’ fundraising efforts or to purchase popcorn, cookies, pies, chicken barbeque, magazines, wrapping paper, or school-themed apparel.

I tried to live by these words from the same chapter: “Give to everyone who asks you“, but it got very expensive. I finally had to institute a policy where I gave only to the first student who asked.

Students were known to make a mad dash to my room when the morning bell rang so they could be the one to make the first request with each new fundraiser.

Once, while in Chicago to run that city’s marathon, a panhandler asked me for a dollar. I reached into the pocket of my jeans and handed him one.

When I pulled the money out, the corner of another dollar peeped out of the top of my pocket. The man, concerned for my safety in the wicked city, pointed this out to me, and I stuffed the second dollar back into my pocket. “Isn’t that worth another dollar?” he asked with a smile.

I smiled back and handed him the second dollar, knowing I had just been scammed. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.

Giving to everyone who asks is difficult. As anyone who has ever donated to a mailed fundraising solicitation knows, responding to one appeal brings dozens of others in response.

Image by mmi9 from Pixabay

Here is the point: reading the Bible is easy (relatively speaking); living your everyday life according to its precepts is hard.

And maybe that’s the point. It is supposed to be hard.

Taking the shortcut, the time-saver, the loophole is…well, it’s the easy way out.

Humans have gotten where we are, evolutionarily speaking, by using our big, sophisticated brains to figure out the most efficient way to accomplish our goals. We make tools, we use fire, we analyze, synthesize, and innovate.

Not only that, we live in complex societies. When learning to overcome the friction that naturally comes from complicated personal relationships, we find little white lies useful. They help us avoid uncomfortable situations. Who likes to be uncomfortable?

We also learn from an early age to repay in kind those who mistreat us. Getting ahead in life is not achieved by allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of.

But allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of is exactly what the verses in Luke urge us to do. I mean, pray for those who mistreat us? Really? Who does that? Lend money without expecting to be repaid? Do good to those who hate us?

Luke acknowledges that it won’t be easy. You don’t get credit, he says, for loving those who are easy to love and being good to those who are good to us. “Even sinners do that“, he says.

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

To earn favor with God and to be a good person, apparently, we need to dig deeper.

We need to be good even to people who don’t treat us well. We need to love those who are not particularly loveable. We don’t get a free pass to act like a jerk even when the other guy acts like a jerk.

Winning at all costs should not be part of our game.

Always looking for the easy way is not the best way to live our lives.

Or, as the hip-hop artist Lecrae says, “My faith is not identified by my title. My faith is identified by how I live. Wearing the uniform is not the same as playing the game.

You can find the places I link up here.


  1. Wow..thank you. Loved this and the way you underdtand scripture. I stopped giving everything to everyone..we are not God, we can’t, but the perspective is there. If I feel drawn to do something I do. I now give with a cheerful heart and smile , even with my words. Big blessings today to you and your family. God bless you๐ŸŒบ

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  2. Laurie, living according to The Book will be challenging as the very words of Jesus turn everything upside down. He truly impresses upon us > “winning at all costs should not be part of our game”. May those around me see Him in my life, even when it is a challenge. And I love the stories of each of your parent!

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  3. The lady with the broken vase was something else!! I’m trying to imagine the look on your Mom’s face when she was presented with it!
    Yes, it’s hard to be kind and thoughtful to those who have been mean towards us – while we mustn’t repay them in the same way, I do believe that we must learn to be wise to avoid being constantly taken for granted by some people too.

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    • Ha! I have to smile when I remember my mom telling that story. You are right, Corinne. We are not asked to be doormats. We should not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of or treated badly. It’s a fine line to walk.

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  4. I enjoyed reading your message… it’s a goal to follow Luke’s intent. We were watching the Crown last night and M. Thatcher said the opposite to the queen… she wanted brits to get their own, giving to others only if they had a lot and wanted to… we looked at each other and said, well that sounds familiar. I think your message resonated with me in my quest to forgive, which is another form of giving to those who harmed me but haven’t acknowledged it.

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  5. You said it with: “living your everyday life according to its precepts is hard.” Therein is the rub. I try to remember to rise above situations wherein someone is awful to me, or does something despicable, but it ain’t easy. Great post

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    • Yes…that IS the rub. Whether you get your moral code from the Bible, the Torah, the Upanishads, or your own sense of right and wrong, it is tough to follow the rules. Thank you, Ally.

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  6. As always, thought-provoking. I felt for your mother whose faith must have been damaged by that student who took advantage of her good nature. That’s the thing, isn’t it, there’s always going to be someone who will take advantage – the challenge is not to allow that experience to tarnish your own faith in human nature and paint everyone with that same brush.

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    • That incident must have made an impression on my mom. She told that story often. She always laughed when she told it, though! Now I picture her getting her reward in heaven! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. A post that rings so true, Laurie. (And I love how entrepreneurial both of your parents were during such a challenging time! Stories of determination and resilience during the Great Depression always inspire me. Thanks for sharing a little bit of theirs today!)

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  8. The way your parents paid their way through college did make me smile and I think you had the right idea about only giving to your first student per fundraiser. I imagine it could have got so expensive.
    Very wise words x

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  9. This is a great post, and it is something I’ve been thinking about a bit lately. Jesus’ words are so challenging and it’s easy to agree that his instructions are good but to talk ourselves out of actually putting them into practice. It’s definitely something I need to reflect on some more.

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    • Thank you, Lesley. I never thought of that – we DO tend to talk ourselves out of putting Jesus’s words into practice. I believe we are convincing ourselves that it’s Ok to take the easy way out. You have made me think!

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  10. Those verses from Luke are very difficult ones to try and live by, aren’t they? It isn’t easy to stay kind when others mistreat you and to love those who are not loveable. Always something to strive for though. #MMBC

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  11. I’m certain that your mom is getting her full reward in heaven! What a daring comment that person made to her. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I know there have been times when I’ve been scammed too. But I consider that to be on the scammer, not me. I’d rather err on the side of grace because there have probably been more times when I did NOT give to someone when they really needed it, unfortunately.

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    • I like to think my mom is getting her full reward in heaven too, Lisa! I try to err on the side of grace too. There have been many times I have received undeserved grace and I know how good it feels! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. Laurie I certainly believe there are people who don’t walk the talk… or whatever the saying is. I’m often surprised by those people who show true kindness or generosity and it’s not often those you expect.

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  13. We read Lacrae’s autobiography for book club and I really enjoyed it! How we want to be paid and how Jesus wants us to view payment can be polar opposite! Remembering what He has done for us on the cross humbles me and reminds me we are called to forgiveness and love, always.

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  14. I used to have a hard time forgiving because the other person didn’t deserve it. But I try to remember, I didn’t deserve it, either. And when it comes to hard-to-love people, my tendency is to keep my distance and thus keep peace. But loving requires interaction, even when people rub us the wrong way. I’m astonished at Hebrews 10:24: “you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” That would take so much grace. Thankfully, God has an unlimited supply.

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    • I used to have a hard time accepting forgiveness because I didn’t think I deserved it. I am still working on that one. You are right about the verse from Hebrews. To JOYFULLY accept plundering is something cannot imagine. Thank goodness God can and does imagine it.

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  15. Laurie, this was a thoughtful post for me. Living out scripture is not easy, and we don’t always see our reward here (I’m sure your mom’s reward far exceeded anything she could imagine) , but at the same time there are too many Christians “wearing the uniform” without playing the game-I pray I would not be one of them.

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  16. What a lovely post! I really loved the quote: “Wearing the uniform is not the same as playing the game.” It’s so true. There are a lot of uniform-wearers out there, far fewer who are actually playing the game. Your “first one who asks” rule reminded me of my husband’s rule when buying Girl Scout Cookies at work: No Girl Scout, no cookies.” He always bought (Thin Mints!) them from the Scout, never from the parents.

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  17. I had to smile at you having to decide what to do when your students were fundraising. There were always Girl Scout cookies at the office this time of year and my last boss had triplet girls and they were all Girl Scouts and his wife was a Girl Scout regional leader. Ed always bought something from whomever was selling things on behalf of their kids, so everyone bought cookies. Once a year I went around the office with the triplets delivering cookies and it took the better part of the afternoon do it.

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    • Oh, my…the kids in my classes were involved in so many activities! I don’t remember too many girl scouts in class, but we had girl scouts in the neighborhood who I bought girl scout cookies from. Wow! Triplet girls!!! That would be a handful. Delivering cookies with the triplets sounds like a fun way to spend an afternoon!

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      • Ed and Christan had a boy, one year older and then the triplets. The triplets were fraternal – Megan and Allison were identical and Bridget looked like she came from another family as she was very tiny, dark and straight hair and the other two girls had naturally curly blonde hair and were tall. They usually came in on Valentine’s Day and we would get the supply cart to pass out the boxes of cookies. Yes, I had to buy from each girl. Each of the girls was involved in sports, but not the same sport so they spent all their time, running them to practice and games and the Brendan was into hockey and had ice time every morning during hockey season at the crack of dawn.

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      • Ha! So funny you had to buy from each of the 3 girls. I guess 3 boxes of cookies are not too bad, though. We used to put some in our freezer sometimes. We used to run our boys around like that too. they were in soccer, football, baseball, wrestling, and tennis. When our youngest 2 went out for the golf team in high school, I was so relieved. First of all, because they both went from football to golf. Much less chance of injury in golf. Secondly, there were no spectators in golf and the school provided transportation to and from the golf course. Much less for me to do!

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      • Yes, not too bad and that’s the only thing they sold. His son didn’t sell anything for hockey. You and Bill were likely relieved when they went out for the golf team … much safer. You lucked out with less running around. Ed said many times on a Friday at the end of the workweek “well I should be glad for the weekend, but the kids have so many activities lined up, there is no rest for the weary.”

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  18. What a great post. Yes, as teachers, and now even as retired grandparents there is a call for some money towards this or that fundraiser. I find it hard to say no, but in recent years, with a much more limited income I have to stick with it. I get annoyed about some of the fundraisers where, like it or not, you are donating a percentage to that organisation.

    Being asked for money. Sets up an obligation of sorts too. Love reading your stories. Always.

    Thank you for linking up for Life This Week, and as we approach the changing month to April, may you have some good weather where it’s enjoyable to be outside. Next week, the optional prompt is the second of the Self Care stories. Are you self caring enough? See you on Monday 5 April for #lifethisweek link up. Denyse.

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    • Yes, I’m sure as a teacher, principal, and grandparent you know what it is like to be asked to contribute to fundraisers. It does get expensive!

      Thank you for hosting. Hope to see you next week.

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  19. Such truth and wisdom, Laurie! I’d rather just make a cash donation than buying something I don’t need from some eager student ;). We have a lot of people on the team of Christianity, and many of them just keep the bench warm. I want to be in the game.

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  20. It is so much easier reading the bible, than putting it into practice! Yes, that is the truth. It asks us to do some hard things. I enjoyed the vase story. There are people who regularly do things like this. With me she would have got away with it. But I know people who would have made her walk that day.

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  21. Such a great message in your post, Laurie. I always try to employ the golden rule of doing unto others. In recent years, I have also been practicing โ€œbless those who persecute you.โ€ Thatโ€™s an especially tough one, given the drama of this past year.

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  22. You got me, Laurie! I knew the first part about loving your enemies, but had forgotten about the second part. Now I guess these are enemies, not necessarily the ones who would be of another religion or do something violent to us, but the ones who take advantage of us to get their way. I understood when a client was not able to pay – they didn’t have the money but needed help, but raising funds projects – it depends …. hard to know where the line is! Have a poignant Easter celebration:) Jesh

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  23. This is a great post. I love the story of how your mother was taken advantage of. Sometimes we do have to dig deeper. I worked for over thirty years in downtown Tulsa and encountered many panhandlers and I never gave them a thing. A few times when they asked for it I had my lunch that I purchased in a bag in my hand. They’d ask for change and I’d say I am not going to give you any money but I will give you my lunch. Two times they acted very grateful and appreciate. The third time the guy took it grudgingly and I think he threw it in the garbage.

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  24. I love it when you bring your parents into your stories. Another ‘rimshot’ post to be sure. My non-biblical response is a quote from my mom, who would sometimes ruefully say, “my pockets are full of thanks!” There is so much wisdom here, and not all of it from Luke:) There have been times I have succeeded in praying for people who have hurt me, but sometimes I “take it back” and have to start over. I think it is easier than some of the things we are asked to do. Blessings for the day, and the day after a nd the day after, Michele

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  25. If I were in charge of the universe, your mom would have taken that chipped vase to Antiques Roadshow and discovered it was a rare example of whatever famous American ceramic studio and was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, I if were in charge of the universe I’d probably forget to pay attention to a few things, like photosynthesis and gravity, and that wouldn’t be so satisfying.

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  26. What a thoughtful post Laurie. It can be a fine balance trying to practice kindness and love to those who show neither. At the end of the day, we are only human and can only but try. ๐Ÿ™‚

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