I Like Giving - Week 2: I Like Being 98
Today we are continuing the sermon series that we started last week entitled, "I Like Giving." During this series, which we'll be working through throughout the month of May we'll be learning what it means to live a generous life--with our finances, time, talent, etc.
As I said last week, the very essence of God is generosity. Out of the boundless generosity of God flows God's unmeasurable grace and expansive love. And you and I are made in the image of God--with God's DNA all in us and through us. So it stands to reason that our default, our go-to should be to live generous lives.
But we don't always live generous lives. In fact, for most of us---even those of us who call ourselves Christians--we do quite the opposite. This sermon series is going to wrestle with that issue--seeking to demonstrate that there are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits to being generous, and as we will learn today there are also unbelievable benefits for those who receive--more than we may realize.
Let's begin with our passage of Scripture today, though. We're starting in Luke 6:37-38 today where we will find one of Jesus' most famous sayings that tends to be taken out of context pretty often.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
First, let's take on the first line from verse 37, which is the one I was talking about a moment ago. "Judge not, and you will not be judged." I think more people who aren't Christians know that verse than any other verse in the Bible. And for good reason. There are Christians who have a tendency to be a bit judgmental from time to time--some more than others. As we learned a few months ago, being judged by Christians was the number one reason why people don't want to go to church.
But this particular verse isn't exactly about being judgmental. And it's also not a prohibition against calling sin for what it is, and injustice for what it is.
The word here is the same root word that we get the English word "critic." Someone who is taking potshots at someone else unfairly. This is for the person who is using his own template to criticize people, and his template emphasizes one set of sins as worse than others. Typically, the type of sins that aren't all that bad in this kind of critique are the ones the critic himself is guilty of. For example, there are lots of Christians who are guilty of gluttony, anger, envy, bigotry and pride will tell a gay person they are going to hell.
What Jesus is saying here is--"If you are going to use your own template to criticize others, than you can fully expect for the mirror image of your template to be used on you."
In the same way, Jesus says, "Forgive and you will be forgiven." The word here is the same word for "pardon," which is simply a reflection of God's grace. In other words, when you forgive others, when you pardon them from the hurts they've done to you, the slights, the pain they've caused, the wounds and betrayal. When you forgive them, you are not admitting that they were not guilty, you are pardoning them.
Which is what God has done for us--we who slighted God, caused him pain, wounded and betrayed him over and over again by the things we've done and the things we've left undone. It's not that we are innocent--we've just been declared not-guilty, we've been pardoned because of the love of God through Jesus Christ who loved us to the end, gave himself for us, and was raised to give us new life.
Then Jesus shifts gears a tad. It's almost as though we realizes that his audience isn't quite getting what he's saying--almost the way I feel a little right now.
He suddenly says, "Give and it will be given unto you..." suddenly, he has everyone's attention. This was the language of the marketplace. When you came to the market with goods or money, you exchanged it for goods or money.
Measure for Measure. Pound for pound. Penny for penny.
Then Jesus paints an even more vivid picture: "A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap." When people would go to the market they would often use the folds of their robes as a shopping bag.
Jesus is tapping into that imagery. You can almost see it: A merchant with grain takes his measuring device, a clay pot, perhaps or a basket--he fills it to the brim, he tamps it down, he pours more in, more and more until it's overflowing and then he pours that into the lap of a woman who is standing there with her robe held out--more than she can hold, almost.
Then Jesus says, "the measure you use, will be measured to you..."
The implication is that whoever is standing there receiving that grain being poured into their lap has at some point given generously in order to receive such bounty.
This kind of imagery would have sucked everyone into his teaching. Hopefully, just like you've been sucked into this one.
Because, as Jesus was trying to help people understand, when it comes to living generously, you get out what you put in. If you see people with generous eyes instead of critical ones... If you give of what you have freely and abundantly... If those are the measures you are using to give---then the same measures will be used in return.
Here's the thing, we never know what might happen when we live generously. When we put good out into the world in abundance---more often than not the same measure of abundance returns to us, though not always in the way we expect it.
Let me tell you a story about Krispy Kreme donuts.
Gotcha didn't I? Sucked you right in.
I was living in Chicago and working as the youth director for a church in the northern suburbs. Every Sunday morning I would stop and get donuts on my way to Sunday school. It was a requirement, I was told. I knew better. Kids hate mornings and need sugar to help them see Jesus.
When the new Krispy Kreme donuts opened I started stopping there on my way in every Sunday. After a while the manager asked me what I was doing, and i told her I was buying donuts for kids so they could see Jesus.
From that moment on, every Sunday I walked in and she gave me a dozen donuts for free, and sometimes a few more.
A few years ago, one of our members paid for the meal of the person behind them at the McDonald's drive through. The next day she stopped by there again and the young man working the window told her that after she'd paid for the guy behind her, he did the same. Then that guy paid for the person behind him, and so on and so on. It went on for about ten people until finally someone just received it and didn't pass it on.
But still... what a story those Mickey D's employees told.
When Merideth and I were living in Chicago we were working like dogs--me at my full time youth director gig with over 300 kids, and she at her white collar law firm position that required her to work 70 hours a week. Oh and I was going to school full time, too.
One day, the pastor of the church handed me a check for a $1000. It was from an anonymous donor who saw how hard my wife and I were working both within and without the church to serve the youth there. It wasn't the money that felt the best--although that was nice. It was the fact that someone saw us, really saw us.
Check out this video from the I Like Giving website:
I Like Being 98. from ILikeGiving.com on Vimeo.
Evelyn generously shared what she had: dignity, worth, purpose. She did so in a determined and selfless way--going above and beyond what she had to do in order to provide dignity, worth and purpose to her friend.
You can look at Evelyn and tell that she has not only spent her life not listening to people who told her she couldn't... She has spent her life giving whatever she had in abundance, and received in abundance more than she dreamed.
When it comes to living generously, you get out what you put in.
So what are you putting out into the world?
Are you putting out judgment into the world? Do you see the world with a critical eye, one that is quick to note the shortcomings of others, the sins of others, the fallenness of others, without noting your own?
Are you putting out scarcity into the world? Are you holding too tightly to the things you have, the money, the possessions, your talents and gifts? Maybe you are afraid you won't have enough--money, time, security, whatever... So you close your fists a little tighter and make the world a little poorer.
Maybe you put out fear into the world? You fear the future, you fear making decisions, you fear commitment...
Or maybe it's selfishness you are putting out into the world. You aren't worried about having enough--you simply want more.
Based on what Jesus taught, what sort of measuring cup will be used to give to you if the one your using is tainted with judgment, scarcity, fear and selfishness?
Or are you putting out something else into the world. Forgiveness perhaps---reflections of God's grace. Or Generosity of spirit--living into the hope of who you really are in the eyes of God through Jesus. Or Courage instead of fear--you step into life unafraid, ready to live abundantly as Jesus promised. Maybe you are putting out Selflessness into the world where you consider the needs of others before your own.
By now you understand. We all want these things don't we? We want to be forgiven. We want to be treated generously. We want to know that we have people who will be our shield in troubled times. We want for people to see us, truly see us and put our needs ahead of their own.
Measure for measure.
When we live generously, we experience generosity. You get out what you put in. Sometimes the things we receive are dramatic. Sometimes they are ordinary. Sometimes they are unexpected. Other times they are flat out miraculous.
Several years ago, my wife was praying in a church service at our former church. She was overwhelmed by the unshakable feeling that she needed to give extra money to one of her employees who was having a hard time. The young woman was struggling with her ex husband over child support payments--as in he refused to pay them. Merideth not only had the overwhelming feeling that she needed to give the woman a check, she also had an amount in mind--one that came to her in the midst of her prayers. It was something like $642.16--that kind of specific.
She ignored it.
For a while.
Then she finally wrote the check one morning and called her employee into her office. She told her the story, and then handed her the check. The woman burst into tears. The amount of the check was the exact amount that she needed to pay an overdue bill. Down... to... the... penny...
Sometimes God loves to show off when we simply trust that the good we do in His name--will not return empty. We didn't receive a hundred times what we gave in that moment, or even ten times, which is what a lot of those prosperity gospel guys will try to tell you will happen.
We received ten thousand times worth of love and grace, though. A priceless reminder of how much God loves everyone--including us.
When it comes to living generously, you get out what you put in.