The Absurdity of Jesus’ Views on Generosity

Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6:1-4;  2 Corinthians9:6-9

Today we have called a congregational vote to consider the budget for 2020. This is a reality a church family, like any other family, has to face.

There is only one more topic that pastors are more wary of speaking about than money.

And yet, it may surprise you to know that Jesus mentions money in 11 of his roughly 40 parables. In more than 2,000 verses in the Bible money is mentioned. (It must have been some very bored people who decided to count them all.)

Why is money mentioned so often, one might wonder.

A colleague I spoke with this past week said to me,

“Anton, money is never about money. Its about power.”

In the secular culture money has become the Golden Calf that is worshipped by an adoring crowd. Those gladiators who have amassed the most are often the heroes that others dream of emulating.

From the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks to those who contribute their money to the faith community of his time or to those in need. His message: DON’T BE a BRAGGARD.

Be modest, Jesus says.

 “I tell you the truth, those hypocrites already have their full reward. So when you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know what you are doing. Your giving should be done in secret. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you.”

Our second reading was from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Here in lies the secret of how we give. Not reluctantly. Not under compulsion. But cheerfully.

One will only be able to give cheerfully when we give out of gratitude.

What are we grateful for?

Firstly, for the gift of life itself. May we never take our life for granted. It is an incredible privilege.

Secondly, we are promised in Romans 8 that; “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” Is this not reason for gratitude?

And thirdly, for having what we have. It may not be much, but if it is enough to allow us a dignified lifestyle, then we are better off than about 2 billion people who have a hard time finding shelter and food.

And finally, when we give or share what we have an amazing thing happens. We discover a sense of joy and fulfillment when we give with the right attitude.

So, if Jesus teaches us how to give in the Gospel of Matthew, then Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, confirms what Jesus said in a different way;

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.

Someone once said to me, “…if you cannot give out of a sense of gratitude, keep your money. And if you understand how fortunate you are, give generously”

A few disclaimers I think is important;

The church is not the only entity to which we give.

Habitat for Humanity, Heifer Project International, Maureen’s Haven, Cancer Research, Timothy Hill Ranch, Cropwalk, St Judes are all examples of opportunities to invest our giving in because of their work.

Let’s face it, the generosity Jesus speaks of sounds absurd in the minds of those who see no correlation between gratitude for what we have and sharing a fair share of it with those who have less.

Matthew 5 confirms the absurdity of Jesus’ views on giving;

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

Which brings us to the budget and to our giving for next year:

  • Let us consider what this church means to us and let us ensure that it remains a healthy past of the Body of Christ by supporting it financially as we feel moved to do.
  • Let us make this the time for us to consider how and what we wish to contribute, not only to the church, but also to the many causes that address the specific needs of people who need urgent help. Let us consider planning for this just as we would for a next big purchase or for our next vacation. Be intentional.

In the words of the prophet, Malachi (3:10)

“[Let us] bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

Amen.