And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21 (emphasis added)
I honestly do not remember why or when I went to the trouble of circling all the personal pronouns in this passage in my Bible. I suspect it was a sermon somewhere sometime. But the circles are all still there, and it really does paint a clear picture. The “rich fool” in this parable was totally self-absorbed and focused first and foremost on his own comfort level. This point seems to be central to Jesus’ parable…and to God’s perspective on giving.
I cannot think about the concept of “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, etc.” without thinking about the seagulls in Disney-Pixar’s Finding Nemo. Remember these guys?
I suppose there are a lot of ways to measure how much you or I “give” to something. For example, maybe you have a boss who expects you to give “one hundred, ten percent” and measures you that way. Or maybe you had a coach in school who wanted you to “leave it all on the …
I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me —the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace…I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:23-24, 33-35
There are surely thousands and thousands of possible reasons people choose to be a church leader. Money is probably not one of them. Oh, I know there are those few high profile ministers (particularly in evangelical circles) who have profited tremendously, but let’s be real, that is by far the exception, not the expectation. Rather, there are other kinds of “payoffs” which I believe attract some people into leadership positions in ministry. Some of us just like to be in charge. We like the power which comes with being the leader. We like to chart the course and then expect those who are following to, well, follow. For others, it is just the attention alone which draws them in. They are otherwise lonely people and the “payoff” for them is the “friends” who gather around them as leaders. Still others choose leadership by default, because they just cannot handle following. They ascribe to the philosophy: “He who refuses to lead is doomed to be led by someone lesser than himself.”
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:8-9
Generally, I have never liked comparing churches…for lots of reasons. It is a thing wrought with pitfalls and other dangers. I think comparing churches just fosters the already-prevalent attitude that churches are somehow in competition with each other for all the best people. We all know better intellectually, but our actions and attitudes say otherwise. I also do not like comparing churches because each local body of believers is dealing with its own special calling to a community or a certain people group or some other such “calling”, and the processes and programs should be specific to that calling, which makes comparing your church’s programs to my church’s programs an apples and oranges kind of thing.
But as with almost any other rule, there are exceptions to my rule against comparing churches. I mean, seriously, if a particular comparison was OK with Paul, then who am I to question it? Paul did not seem to hesitate in his second letter to the Corinthian church, comparing the generosity (in giving) of that church to that of the poorer Macedonian churches.
You see, there is something about “living generously” that transcends cultural differences or even differences of church size or Christian “flavor”. It is the very heart of a church, and it has a way of leveling the playing field in any comparison. The church who focuses on pouring itself into the lives of others, who focuses on being generous in giving …
Tuesday Re-mix – this is a popular post from last year, updated and rerun for your consderation and comments.
I think that I shall never see…
…a Christian lovely as a tree (with apologies to Joyce Kilmer). The big, strong, deep rooted tree is the image to which I am continuously drawn when I think of “growing” in a relationship with Christ. You know, the Psalm 1 “tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither.” It is the image of perfect health.
It is also the illustration we used in our Sunday morning Bible Study (you can find us here) as we talked about the “Spiritual disciplines” of the Christian life. One of the disciplines we studied was the discipline of giving. Once again, just the preparation of the lesson alone brought me great conviction. Here is the passage that got me:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:6-7
I was brought up in the church. I was taught about giving at a very early age. I have been a fairly faithful “giver” pretty much all of my adult life. I have done it in (very small) part as an act of worship, but much more so out of a sense of “it’s just the right thing to do”. I see it as a part of God’s economy. If God says it’s a good way to handle my finances, that’s enough for me. I saw Cecil B. DeMille’sTen Commandments as a child, and God has had my attention ever since …