Proverbs 11:24-25, Proverbs 22:9, 1 Timothy 6:17-19
How would you like to be remembered? Would you want people to remember you for your kindness to others? Would you want people to say they could always count on you to share your time and talents with others? Would you want people to remember that in your quiet way you helped feed a family? I hope so. Finding our generous nature is what it means to truly love God and love our neighbor.
Remember the classic novel by Charles Dickens known as “The Christmas Carol?” We find quite a character in Ebenezer Scrooge who begins his life a bit rough but turns into a happy-go-lucky, rather poor young man who attracts the love of a special girl. Only Ebenezer finds himself wooed by another love – his love for money. His greed came close to ruining him until he had a special encounter that reminded him of his personal need to be generous. We need to be generous. As human beings this need swells within us. While we are blessing others, we in turn receive a level of contentment that otherwise would seem to elude us.
So what keeps us from being generous? Why do we hesitate to achieve this level of contentment? Our text suggests there are a couple of reasons. The first is the voice of fear. We hear it in our heads when presented with an opportunity to be generous. The voice of fear tells us that if we give what we have to someone else, there will not be enough left for us. For some, this fear is debilitating, creating a person who only hoards things for oneself. Have you ever watched that show called ‘Hoarders?’ My word! What a sad commentary of how fear can literally destroy us. But the truth is that even if we gather everything we can and keep it for ourselves, there is no guarantee of safety or security. The latest recession has taught us just how quickly the tide can turn.
The second voice that we often succumb to is the voice of self-gratification. If we give money to someone else we won’t have enough to buy the stuff we want to make us happy. Perhaps we do the mathematical calculation and realize that if we were to keep the ten percent we would normally give to God, we could be living in a nicer house or driving a newer model car. I would venture to say that many folks that live in the finest houses and drive the nicest cars may not have found true happiness.
At some point a vast realization hits us – everything belongs to God; God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and guess what? God owns the hills! It all belongs to God! Our possessions, our treasures, our very lives belong to God. I would like to take this opportunity to share the pulpit with Dave Ramsey, the founder of Financial Peace University. This excerpt from his course talks about why we need to give back and not be overcome by our fear and insecurity. [Play video]
As Christians we need to come to the realization that we cannot do everything on our own. We need to come to the place of acceptance that to truly be happy we need to humble ourselves before God, raise the white flag, and surrender our fears, our joys, our sorrows, our very beings to the one who gave his all for us. Jesus the Christ poured out his love for each of us by suffering the path to the cross, and then rising from the dead to claim victory over death, hell and the grave. Hallelujah!! Christ is risen – he is risen indeed!
Generosity is a sign of spiritual growth. As we continue to improve our spiritual health, we find ourselves experiencing the fruit of the Spirit as noted in Galatians 5:22-23: “22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things” (NRSV.) You will notice the last one on the list is self-control. Do you think maybe curbing our appetites for more and more stuff requires self-control? Yes, so do I.
As we grow in our spiritual faith we begin to better understand and experience love, joy and real peace. But to continue to be the children God is calling us to be, we need to proceed down the list to develop and experience patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The fruit of generosity is right smack dab in the middle of this awesome list of qualities – things we would want to be remembered for. When we finally understand and accept that God is the owner and we are the managers or stewards of everything God has given us, we can finally experience true kindness, gentleness, and generosity toward others, and true and lasting peace and contentment for ourselves. Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can. Amen.