Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Mary says, “Love & Generosity: you can’t have one without the other.”
February 17, 2011
Rewind: Last night, Mary told us that there are over 3,000 verses in Scripture that speak to generous living in one form or another. Some, like Proverbs 11: 24-25, encourage us to give abundantly: “Some people give much but get back even more. Others don’t give what they should and end up poor. Whoever gives to others will get richer…” (NCV) While others, like Proverbs 18:1, tell us selfishness is isolating and foolish: “Unfriendly people are selfish and hate all good sense” (NCV). It’s quite obvious from all this that God wants us to live generously, but how do you do that? You let God’s love pour out of you and into those around you. It’s like Mary said, “Love and generosity; you simply can’t have one without the other.”
As humans, we are consumed with selfish ends: what is it going to do for me? How do I benefit? What do I gain? Me, me, me! Think about it, we operate on this level pretty much from the moment we’re born. As soon as you’ve mastered the all important, “Mama” and “Dada,” the next words out of your mouth are “me,” “mine,” “I do it,” and “no!” When you get a little older, you learn about this strange concept – sharing – which is a bummer, because, after all, those are your toys. By the time you get to college, you’re really good at thinking about life in terms of “me,” so it seems only natural that you spend the whole four years focusing on my dreams, my goals, my talents, and my needs. Selfishness doesn’t end there, though; oh no, it only gets worse after graduation. Then it’s all about my job, my money, my car, my house, my money, my huge wedding, my future, and, oh yeah, my money. It’s just like Mary said last night: if we don’t pay attention, we turn into selfish beasts really, really fast.
Close your eyes and think back to just two month ago. It was December, and it was cold, and for us students, it was time for finals, but it was also Christmas time… There is just something about the Christmas season that makes people, Christians and non-believers alike, want to give, to help, and to love one another better. But what happens to that feeling the rest of the year? It’s like the spirit of giving gets taken down and packed away with the ornaments and twinkly lights! Jesus didn’t call us to love each other one month out of the year; He commanded us to love always. Remember how Jesus responded to the Sadducees? “The most important command is this… Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second command is this: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. There are no commands more important than these.”
Is that how you’re living? Do you love your neighbors as much as you love yourself? Truth be told, that’s hard to do, because we love ourselves a lot. But just like Mary explained last night, learning to live generously – living a life that is brimming over with love – is as simple as reexamining what you place value on (people, success, honesty, money, possessions), and what your heart looks like when you give (cheerful, willing, and honest, or begrudging and deceitful). Keep in mind that giving isn’t always something tangible like money or goods; you can also give of your time and your spirit in the form of patience, kindness, grace, and forgiveness. If you’re looking for an example of loving generosity, just look to Jesus; there was certainly no room for selfishness on the cross.
“Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” Deuteronomy 15:10
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:38
“But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:42-44
Push Play: It’s really easy to not give. It’s really easy to close your eyes or turn away from a need and convince yourself that you don’t understand or that it’s not your problem anyway. In the same way, it’s really easy to give a little bit because you feel like you have to. How many times have you given to a cause, any cause, just because the people you’re with have pulled out their wallets? Giving of your spirit is even more tricky, because, let’s be honest here, if you don’t want to, you probably won’t. After a long day, it’s hard to muster the strength to treat people with patience and grace, but that is what we are told to do. The truth is, Jesus calls us to give abundantly and willingly. In other words, we are to give more than what we think we are capable of – be it monetarily or spiritually – and do it with a smile in our hearts. Yeah, what Christ calls us to do is not always easy, but it is always rewarding.