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Luke 6:29 If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Native people believe that we make ourselves sick when we try to hang on to things that we do not need. God gives us physical things to bless others. If we try to keep extra stuff for ourselves, our souls are not enriched, but diminished.

The Spirit of Giving is common to all Native cultures. We give to honor our elders. We give to honor guests. We give to bless travelers in our midst. We give to show we have been blessed by the Creator. We give to show we are able to give. We give to live by the golden rule.

In powwows we often have giveaway dances to mark special events. When someone comes out of mourning—when someone comes home from war—when someone is honored for an achievement—when a child enters the dance ring for the first time—one might hold a special dance and a giveaway.

Sometimes powwows include an offering to help someone in need. Dancers go around the circle and those who wish to do so cast money into a blanket being carried. No one is forced to contribute, but it is considered an honor to be able to do so.

Sometimes we give away the blanket too! Pendletons, like the Chief Joseph blanket pictured above, are considered princely gifts of honor.

Some of the most famous giveaways took place along the Pacific Northwest, among the Totem Pole peoples (Tlingit, Salish, Haida, and others). These folks held ceremonies called potlatches which might go on for days—sometimes weeks! The potlatch host would spread a banquet so lavish, tell stories so long, sing so many songs, and give away so many gifts, that they might be destitute by the end of the ceremony. No matter—for each of their guests was honor bound to invite them to future potlatches, where they would try to give even more. By giving away all they had, the potlatch hosts were guaranteed to receive even more. That enabled them to give even more the next time around!

Jesus told a story about a man who gave a potlatch banquet in Luke 14:15-24. “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come!”

When European authorities came they outlawed the potlatches. Why? Well, it’s just too hard to tax people when everyone in the community keeps giving everything away. Like Caesar Augustus in Luke 2, our government still wants to keep track of us so it can tax us.

In this Lenten season, God is calling you to give away the things you do not need. Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but give away all you can. It makes your soul healthy, and it makes Caesar nervous.

O Creator, I want to hoard that which is not mine to keep. Grant me the grace to give like crazy so I can truly be rich in soul.