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A Fruitful Life – Part 6: Generosity

Devotional for the week of August 14, 2017


Monday

Our sixth fruit to hang from the tree of our spiritual selves is that of generosity.  Perhaps no greater challenge to our assumptions and our core beliefs is realized than through the conversation of resources.  I’m sure you have heard it, or maybe even used the phrase, “The church is always asking for money!”  It is a critique that has some truth to it for we have not taught well the spiritual fruit of generosity.


Two motivations for generosity often arise—one is based in duty/law as in “I have to give ‘X’ amount to make God happy.”  The other is based on the freedom of soul that discovers God’s generosity to self and, in turn, our invitation to mirror the generous spirit of God to others.  Jesus says it concisely—“where your heart is, there also is your treasure!”  Generosity is a fruit that too many want to keep for themselves rather than share with others.


When you hear the word generosity, what comes to your mind?  What is the root cause of your generosity?  Until you grapple with your core motivations, generosity may be an elusive gift of the spirit.  It is entirely possible to give a lot and not be generous! Read Mark 12:41-44. Each of her two coins were worth 1/128 of a day’s wage and yet is seen as generous!  The amount is not what is important, it is the intent!  She gave out of a soul of generosity!  This week, we’ll explore this gift and how it is shared!


Tuesday

There are two models (perhaps more!) in which we view stuff—one is the scarcity model and the other is the abundance model.  The scarcity model tells us that there isn’t enough for all so we must protect our stuff.  The scarcity model of life teaches us to share only out of our extra…if there is anything extra.  The scarcity model keeps our eyes focused on those who have more thereby inviting us to try to attain their level of abundance.  The scarcity model blinds us to the enormity of what we already have (not always found in wealth!)


The abundance model is quite different.  It is the model that Jesus continually points to that says that there is more than enough.  It is the model in which we look at each part of this life as a gift and see abundance everywhere.  Abundance, in this model, is less concerned with possession as it is with a soul that overflows.  When we have the eyes of abundance, we have the eyes to see the wonder of what is all around us!


Jesus, in John 10:10 says, “I came to give life and to give it abundantly!”  Unfortunately, we have too often tied abundance with possession, bank accounts, etc., instead of that which actually fuels abundance.  Abundance is a soul-stance toward each part of life, in which we gain the vision to see the generosity of God in our very midst.  This breath is a gift; the singing birds as a symphony of creation; the food we share; the child as the most precious present, etc.  Today, try to look for at least one example of God’s generosity every hour!  When you have eyes to see it, you can never again miss it!


Wednesday

One of my favorite quotes about generosity is from Anne Frank.  She says, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Think about that!  Anne was living out of the abundance template in which she realized that she could give and give and yet have everything she needs!  Oh, but there is that word—needs.  We live in a society that markets us to death about what we need.  We drink the cool-aide and believe the false promises that we need this or that.  We spend and spend and spend on ourselves in the hopes of finding fulfillment.  And yet, seldom does one discover fulfillment or abundance.  Instead, we accumulate more stuff that we label ‘mine’. 


Our great challenge is facing the internal struggle between need and want.  Sure, there are countless things I want but are they really a need?  A generous spirit slows down enough to ask: why am I wanting this and what difference will it make?  Have you ever made a rash decision and later regretted it?  Sure, we all have!  When we function out of the generous spirit, we begin to look at not only what I want, but we begin to look at how I may help another.  It is the Spirit, being birthed through us, that grants us the grace to care not only for myself but also for the good of another.  


I once read of a man who decided he wanted to live a simple life in order to bless others and our environment.  Therefore, he moved into a smaller home and limited his possessions to 100 things including clothes, furniture, etc.  Can you imagine?!  Yet, through this experience, he discovered the richness of simplicity and the freedom in giving.  He discovered the spirit of generosity and delighted in sharing with all.


Thursday

Though I’m not Roman Catholic, I must say that I love the Pope! Pope Francis has taught through speech and action the way of generosity.  First, it was him sneaking out at night to go give to the poor and then the invitation for the young Muslim girl to have her feet washed.  He is daring to embody Christ!  In his way, he has challenged the presumptions of a religious establishment while also challenging societal norms.


He sees the interconnectedness of us, as people, as well as a part of the natural world.  We are all in this together and must find ways to be a mutual blessing to one another.  He said, "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment."  What do you think of his statement?  


The generous spirit discerns how to live well while also sharing well.  Generous people have a graceful freedom about themselves as they don’t feel the need to hoard, protect or look with suspicion on others.  Instead, they live into the truth of Proverbs 11:25: Generous persons will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. There is an inherent reciprocal nature within this world in which it all comes back around.  We are less individualized as we are tied to each other.  It is through our mutual giving that we ensure no one ever has need!


Friday

One of the marks of the early church was the image of generosity.  Acts 2 and Acts 4 both point to this by using statements like “they met together daily and shared everything among them so no one ever had need.”  To be sure, this new community birthed in Jesus’ way was marked by welcoming, sharing and blessing.  They learned the gift of doing life together!  They walked in a faith that transformed the sense of community and through that experience, God was present. They modeled the way of humanity at its finest.  


What would it be like to live in the midst of a community where you never had to worry/have need?  What would it be like to be a part of something where each of us shared that which we have in order to bless the other?  


I have this idealism that the Christianity of the future is a better reflection of Jesus’ invitation to us to be the Body of Christ—the representation of the fullness of God among us.  I have this hope that we see the value of every person, our invitation to care for God’s garden (earth), to live in such a way that justice is realized through restorative forgiveness, to be a people that share so that no one is in need.  I have this hope that the community of faith will be marked by many small communities doing life together in such a way that ‘we’ is the common phrase heard rather than ‘me.’  What a glorious day it will be when the fruit of generosity weighs down this tree of ours!


Saturday

Parables are Jesus’ way of sharing a truth that may not be heard by speaking it directly.  Read Matthew 20:1-16.  You may want to read it a couple of times to get the gist!  


Now, let’s be honest…did you say, “That’s not fair!”  Certainly this parable is a tough one to swallow in our society marked by the constant watching of hours, wages and fairness.  Yet, in this parable, the Kingdom of God is marked by generosity!  The farmer gives to each the same wage.  Whether they were there the whole day or just for a part, there is a spirit of generosity within the farmer to those in need.


What does a parable like this say about God?  About the kind of world that God envisions?  Certainly, we have a refrain throughout history of ‘It’s not fair!’ and this is quite often true.  There have been countless stories of unjust labor practices in which the ‘owner’ makes much and shares little.  There are examples of those who have been enslaved or been in labor camps.  There are those who are perpetually stuck in the poverty cycle for the living wage doesn’t match the pay wage.  


I particularly like that this owner is a generous owner.  He gives out of his generous heart to each!  Imagine this type of world where generosity is our first response…may you discover the richness of generosity in your life!


- Central Union Church -


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