Sunday’s Sermon

What would quantify as extravagant generosity to God? Considering he owns everything, what size gift would impress God? $1 million; $100 Million? $100 billion dollars?

1 Chronicles 29 out lines David’s gifts to God – he gave 100 tons of Gold, 250 tons of refined silver. Today’s value would be a minimum of $21 billion.

The Bible suggest that the most valuable gift we can give God is ourselves; our trust and our surrender in him and, out of that trust and surrender, to be generous to each other.

God is constantly asking the Israelites to place their trust in Him – to surrender to his ways and to become His people – to love God and to love their neighbor.

Throughout the law God asks the Israelites to trust him through certain actions. For example the people are required to give the first-fruits of the harvest to God as an offering. They are also to give the first born of their flock to God as an offering. This required trust. The Israelite had no guarantee that the rest of the crop would grow, or that the animal would have other offspring.

One of the most amazing ways God asked the Israelites to trust Him was the law of the seventh year. Just as there was a sabbath every seventh day, God pronounces a sabbath every seventh year. And this sabbath required faith, trust and generosity. Leviticus 25:1-7 says Lev. 25:1    The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6 Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7 as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

The in Deut 15 we see that another aspect of the Seventh year sabbath was that all debts were cancelled and all slaves that were Jews were set free; and not just set free but the Lord required that the slave leave with a generous supply from the winepress, harvest and the flock.

In the middle of all this in Deuteronomy comes our reading – v7-11. The thrust of these verses is that we are to be a generous people. An extravagantly generous people. Not just to the Church, but to each other. And not just because it is good religious practice to do so – or that it gains kudos with God or that it is a good thing to do – we are generous because we trust in and surrender ourselves to God.

The Seventh year meant that the whole nation had to trust that God would supply all their needs. It was in this attitude that the Israelite was to be generous.

So, in our reading, God warns the Israelites that if a brother comes to you in need they must not be tightfisted or hardhearted. They must not think of it as a business decision. They are not to calculate the time to the seventh year and make a judgment on the closeness of it. If an Israelite were to do this then it was a sin.

But if the Israelite gave freely, not begrudgingly then look at what God says will happen – GOD WILL BLESS YOU IN ALL YOUR WORK AND IN ALL YOU UNDERTAKE!

Give freely, generously, extravagantly; trusting and surrendering to the Lord in the name of the Lord and God will bless you. The promise was that when the people are generous all their needs in the time for the Seventh year would be meet.

Giving, generosity – not just money but our time and energy is a faith statement. It is an indication of how much we trust God’s provision to us.

This same theme is seen in our epistle reading.

There had been a collection among the churches for the brothers in Jerusalem who were suffering terrible hardship. Paul and Titus were collecting this money and would take it to Jerusalem. Here in our reading, Paul is telling the Corinthians that the Macedonian Churches had given not just out of their poverty, but also out of their suffering. The Macedonian church was under intense persecution and in incredible need and yet they did not just give to the collection – they gave sacrificially – out of their poverty. The Macedonian Church appeared to have a complete disregard of their own requirements both present and future.

Why?

The were impelled by love and generosity towards their brothers in Christ, brothers they had never seen or met.

They refused to be anxious about tomorrow because of their utter confident dependence upon God, who knows his children’s needs. They fulfill Deuteronomy 15 way beyond measure because their focus was not inward, nor was it out ward – it was upward – they looked to God for everything and trusted in him for all things and so they could give generously.

Paul is sharing this with the Corinthians not to guilt them – or to command them to give – but to ask the question where is their heart. They were neither under persecution nor were they poor – and yet they had not given to the collection. Why?

The issue is not the money. It’s the heart.

David’s gift of $21billion to the temple is not to be impressive because of the amount.

There was a lady in the New Testament who gave more than David. She was a little old widow who put two copper coins in the collection plate – and JEsus pointed to her and said she had given more than anybody in the temple that day because she gave out of her poverty. She loved God so much she trusted he would take care of her and she surrendered her future into His hands.

This is what Paul asks of the Corinthians church. Surrender and trust in God for your needs. Give out of love – for there may be a time in the future, Paul says, that the Corinthians might be in need and may have to rely on the generosity of the churches.

Of course, we have seen may times in the past, that Jesus himself is the embodiment of generous giving – of complete trust and surrender to the father for all his earthly and spiritual needs. And Paul tells this to the Corinthians church in v9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

In our gospel reading from Mark this morning we see both the generous heart of Jesus and what happens when our trust in him remains even through the darkest of times.

For a leader of the Synagogue to come to Jesus shows he had reached desperation point. Jairus must have at some point been in opposition to Jesus’ ministry. But now his precious daughter was dying. She as 12. The age of transition to womanhood – which makes this all the more tragic. Jairus may have opposed Jesus’ ministry in the past – but now, jesus seems the only person who might be able to help him.

This Israelite comes to Jesus and asks him for help. And just as Deuteronomy 15 says, when a fellow Israelite who is in need comes asking for help, be generous.

Jesus goes. Now our reading in the lectionary skips over the delay in getting to Jairus’ daughter – but Jairus is asked to believe and trust God twice. The first time is when messengers come to report that Jairus’ daughter has died. Jesus tells Jairus to do not fear, only believe.

But this must have been so hard to do when he approached the house. There in front of his eyes was concrete proof of her death – mourners and wailers.

For many, death means the end of hope. But not with Jesus. Despite what Jairus SAW and HEARD Jesus says to him – you girl is not dead but sleeping.

Do you see the point. When we entrust ourselves and surrender ourselves to Jesus – Jesus who embodies the heart of generosity and love – the one who helps ALL who ask him for help – hope is always available – EVEN IN DEATH! Jesus is the conqueror of death and so there is not place beyond his reach.

Just as Jesus reached out to help Jairus – just as Jesus gave generously of his love and power to bless Jairus so we too must be a generous people – generous to one another – to others – to those who ask. Generous in giving, in loving, in reaching out. Generous because we know that God will bless us – take care of us and uphold us – but most all generous because we love God, we love his people and we know that we have been on the receiving end of God’s incredible out pouring of love and generosity.

The last two sermons have ended with a quote from the days psalm – and again today, I want to end using the words of this mornings Psalm – words which encapsulate all we have examined this morning – words which we should meditate on as we come to the table of the Lord:

It is well with the man who deals generously and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
[6] For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered for ever.
[7] He is not afraid of evil tidings;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

AMEN!

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