Defined by Generosity

Written by Pastor Mark

Theme Background

We are called as a people to live generously, to give extravagantly.  This is not some addition to our faith life; it is at the center of our identity.  We imitate God by living lives of generosity.  In the first lesson Paul gives some words of advice to Timothy his young acolyte.  Paul seems to be saying that there is a connection between those who are rich and those who are turned in on themselves.  Wealth, any level of wealth, can feed a narcissistic beast which can not be tamed.  If we are looking to finances for security there will never be enough.

Although we are created to be generous, becoming a generous person is very difficult.  When God gave the people of Israel manna in the wilderness they were instructed to only take enough for one day.  But, people, being who they are, can’t help it.  They take more than they will need.  The excess turns into a stinking pile of compost in their tents.  The obvious lesson is that hoarding stinks!  Hoarding is based in the mindset of fear—fear that God will not provide enough for tomorrow.  That is why we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” over and over again.  Anytime we are being motivated by fear we are leaving the path God would have us follow.

In the Gospel lesson today three servants are given money to watch over while their master is away.  Two are focused on putting that money to use.  One is focused on fear.  Jesus’ stories are sneaky.  One of the amazing things about these stories, and this one in particular, is that we have a tendency to meet the God we envision.  If we think of God as mean and judgmental, that’s who we meet.  If we think of God as kind and loving, that’s who we meet.  The last servant expects a God who makes no allowances for our human condition.  He is obsessed with not making a mistake.  That is no way to live.  I love the Peterson translation of the end of the story: “It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!”

In truth we are all servants who have been entrusted with gifts and with wealth, and none of it is ours—it is all on loan from God.  How we use these gifts becomes a large part of who we are.  We can choose to live lives of fear, giving into every promise of security that comes down the pike.  We can choose to fulfill our every desire and turn it into a “need” and refuse to give back to the God who has blessed us in the first place.  But that process turns us in on ourselves and makes us something less than human.

Finally we can give generously.  We can have generosity be a part of who we are, shaping our every decisions in life.  Jesus tells us that this type of life is the only one where true joy is found.  Giving changes us.  And, just as spending ourselves into oblivion creates a vortex of destruction, becoming truly generous people creates a vortex of blessing which sweeps us up and comes back to us many, many times.

What kind of person do you want to be?  One living a life of fear and selfishness, or one living a life centered on blessing and trusting in the loving God who created you?  Surprisingly the first step is not to make a decision to become a generous person, but to actually give something.  The act precedes the identity.  I know both sides of this equation, and I know I’m a lot happier when I get myself in the habit of giving, than when I sink to the habit of fear and self centeredness.  And I know for sure which one fills me with joy and makes me feel complete

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Quotes for the Week

It has always seemed strange to me . . . the things we admire in people, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system.  And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are traits of success.  And while we admire the quality of the first we love the produce of the second.             –John Steinbeck

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.        –Eleanor Roosevelt

Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving.  Reach out.  Share.  Smile. Hug.  Happiness is a perfume you cannot cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.     –Og Mandino

“Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”–John Wesley

1st Lesson 1st Timothy 6:17-21 (The Message)

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

20-21 And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.

Overwhelming grace keep you!

Gospel Lesson Matthew 25:14-30 (The Message)

The Story About Investment

14-18 “It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

Questions for the Week

  • How would you define yourself?
  • How are you playing it safe in your life?
  • What limb might God be calling you to venture out onto?
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