Today I wrap up a preaching series on the awkward things of Christianity and being part of the church. This sermon was on generosity.
Of course through our study these last weeks we have seen a number of examples of generosity formed by the grace of Christ. Oh may the Lord make us generous! Here are some of them that didn’t make it into what was preached.
In this series, we have met some characters that live it out. Zaccheaus gives over most of his wealth because of his encounter with Jesus. His whole purpose of life changes… to restore what was broken through generosity. “Zacchaeus’ giving is not an entrance requirement or necessary model of our own application of the gospel. But it is a model of the proper and natural response to God’s saving grace toward us. Grace frees us to give freely and boldly as we trust in God to meet all our needs (Matt. 6:25-34).” – Gospel Transformation Bible
Or the call girl that weeps at Jesus’ feet, how she spends all of herself for her glory. Her money, the jar of ointment, and he identity, everything extravagantly at his feet.
We see other stories… of the woman giving pennies out of her desperation more honored than the rich… Luke 21:3–4 “And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (ESV)
We hear what the kingdom is like – Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (ESV)
In his joy – cheerfully giving everything else up for what was truly of value. This is counter-cultural, this can make us uncomfortable… but it is so good.
I am loving the story of the manna in Exodus 16 today. While I could spend days talking through God’s provision, the verses that are challenging me talk about how much of the manna the people “gathered” and their “lack” suggesting some subtle greed.
17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat.
Those that “gathered much had nothing left over.” This seems to reflect in a couple of ways both from an attitude and action perspective. Now we know that those in the wilderness had a knack for grumbling so this should not come as a shock, but the attitude of hording something freely given (material) fails the people. Despite being told to take just enough for their households, some still gathered much moving from attitude to action. It is an unfortunate route to take and since they “had nothing left over” I wonder if they were left wanting.
We do this today and we are left with the same want. Sure it is not manna in the form of bread but how are we attempting to “gather much” of things that are provision? Are we striving for the next level of income? Do we need new things? Are we a lemming for cultural trends? Do we crave and strive for attendance records in our churches?
Thankfully we are given another route in the same verse – a different direction for us to take. “Whoever gathered little had no lack.” Now this is where we should be living. Can we be successful? Yes. Can we maintain a level of cultural ‘relevance? Yes (that is for the fashionistas.) The difference in not in the provision, the difference is in our response to it and what we do with what we are given. We will not have “lack” as we gather little. So what does this mean in our context? Going without some of the latest toys, balancing the time we spend on pursuit of things other than God, being content in what we have been blessed with, and I would argue, giving away the excess.
I could share examples of what Stacy and I have done to live this way but I think you can figure out how best to act once you acquire the attitude.
Paul, in 2 Corinthians, highlights this story to encourage Christians to give generously, essentially saying “there is no point in hoarding the good gifts of God.” Oh how I hope and pray that we can live this out and be less about the hoarding of manna and more about living a life defined by sharing the “good gifts of God.”