Friday, July 11, 2014

Unmerited Generosity

2Co 9:6  The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7  Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8  And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. 9  As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10  He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11  You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12  for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 13  Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, 14  while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. 15  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Why are we so grasping? Why do we clutch so tightly to our possessions; why so limited in our capacity to forgive; and why do we part with every coin with such a grudging spirit?

The reality of our life is that the Spirit of our Age is a selfish spirit. The essence of our economy is about grabbing all the money I can get, accumulating possessions, and holding onto savings. When I have surplus I invest it. When I have more than I can use today, I put it away for tomorrow – “just in case”. This is even justified as prudent financial management.  I have found this to be even more acute when I have lived close to poverty. I find that I grasp tightly onto every coin that comes my way, angrily denouncing those who have more than me.

This selfishness has even found its way into Christian teaching. We have invented a prosperity theology that satisfies our selfish cravings. Christian teachers have used (abused) Scripture passage such as this one to preach that we are entitled to be wealthy – to be “enriched in every way” – and that this “glorifies God”! [1] 

A closer reading of the above passage discovers that Paul invites us to a life of unmerited, merciful generosity. Our faith is summed up in this: God has blessed us in abundance so that we might be able to share what we have with those who have need. This is not about accumulation, but is instead about redistribution. All that I have is given by God so that I can share with others:
·         I have been blessed with forgiveness so that I might be forgiving
·         I have been blessed with love so that I might share love
·         I have been blessed with friends so that I might be a friend
·         I have been blessed with food so that I might share with the hungry
·         I have been blessed with money so that I can share with the poor
And this is to be done cheerfully, and “not reluctantly or under compulsion”. It would seem that we demonstrate our grasp of God’s generous loving of us by the generous love we show towards other people.

In the words of Francis of Assisi
“ is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”

Third Sunday after Trinity
34 Our Weakness and God’s Strength
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 213.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.

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