Eucharist – 15th Sunday after Trinity 20th September
The Gospel reading today is all about the generosity of God who chooses to be kind even to those we may think do not deserve His kindness. It’s a hard lesson and one that seems to go against the grain. We’re left asking ourselves why those men who were hired just one hour before sunset should have been paid the same wages as the ones who’d worked hard in the blazing sun all day long. But this is the way with God – this is the way it works… He is always more generous than we could ever imagine and the point is that we’re asked to be as generous ourselves, mirroring if we can the generosity of God.
The Bible is quite clear on this important and fundamental message. In Luke 6 verse 38 Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” And that’s certainly how He is with us – pouring out the blessings of His presence and peace as He walks with us day by day. In turn we take with us and share His presence and peace with those around us.
St Paul thought and wrote a lot about the need to be generous, especially among those who seemed to have enough or more than enough themselves. Here’s what he writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6 verses 17 to 19, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
St Paul didn’t know Jesus in the flesh but someone must have thought it important enough to teach him what Jesus Himself had said about giving and receiving. The lesson was clearly one that stuck in Paul’s mind and in Acts 20 verse 35 he actually quotes the words of Jesus from the lesson he had been taught, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
But it’s not just the New Testament where we learn about generosity. In Proverbs 19 verse 17 we read, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” And again in Proverbs 11 verses 24 to 25, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” These are beautiful encouraging words that we should all heed. There’s an echo of the same thought once again in Proverbs 11 verse 25, “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”
Actually the Book of Proverbs stresses this important teaching over and over again: Proverbs 22 verse 9, “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” Sharing bread with the poor is an important challenge both for biblical times and in the present moment; may God give us the grace to do this gladly and willingly! Proverbs 11 verse 24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” This is not a warning – it’s just the plain truth… you do receive more back when you give stuff away!
But it’s back to St Paul who gives us the best New Testament teaching on the matter – second only to Jesus Himself. In 2 Corinthians 9 verse 7 we read, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Those Corinthian Christians must have been keeping to the letter of the good practice of being generous but perhaps it was being done from a place of resentment or as a matter of duty. Paul says this simply will not do; resentment and duty are not words that characterise the way God is generous with us and it must not be how we are to be with other people either. The truth of the matter is summed up in John 3 verse 16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The point here is that God gave the greatest gift of all in the most generous act of grace and generosity the world has ever seen. This was when He sent His Son into world for our sakes. Such generosity on the part of God requires a generous response on our behalf in return!
Anyway returning to St Paul once more – Philippians 4 verse 19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Just imagine that… EVERY need of ours supplied by a gracious God. And it’s true if we think about it. God gives us everything we need – perhaps not everything we WANT but certainly everything to enable us to reflect His beauty and perfection, His Kingdom and most important of all, His love!
2 Corinthians 9 verse 6, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Again a very important truth is stated here that what we put into anything affects what the results will be. It’s like that in prayer… if we give prayer just a bit of out thought, attention, time and effort then it’s hardly likely to be the pleasurable experience that God created it to be! But it’s true of so many things and especially when it comes to our giving – the more we give away, the more we get back! But this is a challenge – a challenge which Christian people gladly take on: 2 Corinthians 8 verse 7, “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”
And finally, not St Paul any more but the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (they thought it was Paul for years and years but it wasn’t!); Hebrews 13 verse 16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Put simply and starkly, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that generosity is costly… it’s a sacrifice. And if it’s not then it probably isn’t mirroring (however imperfectly) that great generosity of God which is so important to us. The Bible tells of the sacrificial generosity of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. He has been amazingly generous with us in giving us His Son. We are required to be generous in return – gladly, richly and sacrificially! Let us pray for the Grace to do that. Amen!