On August 7, 2020 two Peoria, Illinois boys – Jude and Tristan – were robbed at gunpoint while selling lemonade in their neighborhood. The thieves stole all the money they had earned up to that point – $30. Police responded to Jude and Tristan’s call for help.
But along with making a report, the cops – wishing to encourage the boys – purchased some of their lemonade – for $20 a cup. This was 20 times higher than the asking price of $1. The two policemen also called in their fellow cops to come and get some great lemonade. They did, and before long the boys had earned 20 times what they had lost. The police didn’t only want to make up for the boys’ losses. They wanted them to feel protected and to inspire their entrepreneurial spirit.
Then word got around about the robbery and neighbors began purchasing lemonade too. Then, what appeared to be the entire Peoria Police Force, showed up to purchase Jude and Tristan’s lemonade. In no time, the boys earned more than $3,500 – more than 100 times what was stolen from them.
As I read this story, it made me wonder. What if those two boys had said to the cops? “Forget about buying our lemonade. Go after those thieves who stole our money! The city’s not paying you to buy our lemonade, but to catch criminals. So get going and do your job. We don’t want your charity. We want justice.”
That’s not an uncommon human reaction. Most of us have seen the 1946 Christmas classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. This movie climaxes with all the town’s people rallying around protagonist George Bailey who’s had $8,000 stolen by the movie’s villain Henry F. Potter. But the town showers him with far more money than he’ll ever need in a lifetime. In the end George Bailey realizes he’s “the richest man in town” – because of his family and his many, many friends.
Yet, despite the movie’s positive message, audiences have consistently objected to one glaring omission. According to a documentary on the making of It’s a Wonderful Life, viewers have repeatedly complained that it failed to include Mr. Potter getting his comeuppance. Henry F. Potter was never caught and punished for his crimes – and this has bothered millions of viewers. It’s as if we’d rather see the antagonist punished than the protagonist blessed.
Well, if that had been the course of action by the police – to punish the bad guys instead of benefiting the good guys – there’s a good chance it wouldn’t have worked. They may have never caught the thieves. And even if they had caught them, the two young entrepreneurs would still be at a loss. Justice would not have necessarily restored their money. It certainly wouldn’t have filled their pockets – as the kindness of the police did.
This parallels the problem many people have whenever they’ve been wronged. You see, God promises to make up to His servants all that this world takes away (Joel 2:25). As in the life of Joseph, what other people intend for evil, God will cause to work out for our good (Genesis 50:20). God promises to turn our curses into blessings (Deuteronomy 23:5). He promises to work all things (including the injuries other people inflict on us) together for our good (Romans 8:28).
Yet many of us refuse to forgive others and focus only on retaliation against our offenders. Thus, we become blind to God’s blessings and to the many ways He reimburses us for our loses. Yet, no matter what other people have done to us, God can make up for what they and life itself has taken away. From His infinite riches, God’s gifts will swallow up and obliterate any losses we suffer. So, please, don’t destroy yourself with anger and resentment (Matthew 18:21-35). Let go of those heavy burdens and embrace God’s love for you and His grace toward you.
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, You offer me all Your unsearchable riches in Christ Jesus and eternal life in heaven. Yet if I hold onto my anger and bitterness, I lose my power to receive them. Please, dear Father, soften my hardened heart and empower me to let go of my hatred. Help me to reach out to You, to forgive those who’ve wronged me, and to allow You to enrich me beyond my wildest dreams. In Jesus’ name. Amen.