Values: 4. Generous

Vision and Values

Generous (2 Corinthians 9: 5-7 and Luke 6: 27-38)

During this Autumn Term we’ve been thinking about our Vision and Values here at All Saints. 

Our Vision is to be a welcoming, growing, vibrant church for the community of Denmead.

So far, we’ve looked at several of our values

  • to be a loving people – loving God and loving each other,
  • to be a missional people – those who share the good news of Jesus in the power of the Spirit–
  • and to be a welcoming community in which every person is important and valued…

If you’ve missed these sermons do check out them out from the links on this page

   Or you can pick them up from the carousel by the door at the back.

So, today on this Harvest Sunday – a day when we recognise with grateful, thankful hearts God’s goodness and generosity to us in creation – his amazing, profound love and generosity in sending Jesus as our Saviour and rescuer –  we turn our thoughts to think about our own generosity towards others. 

Let’s pray together:

Father God, as we look at your Word now, may our hearts and minds be open ready to hear you speaking to us, that we might become more like you son Jesus.  In his name we pray, Amen.

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In all that we are and do, we will seek to be a blessing to others, generous with our time and resources.

So, what do we mean by generous? 

Well first, generosity is about a readiness, a willingness, to give more of something…

be it time, or talents or resources. 

Generosity isn’t just about giving a little,

rather it’s about giving far more than is strictly necessary or expected.

When I think about generosity I think of words like lavish, plentiful, copious, ample, bountiful, huge, abundant, profuse, overflowing, and inexhaustible.

Both our passages today focus on generosity from two different angles:

  1. Our reading from Luke shares Jesus’ words and helps us to think through what it might mean for us to have generous, lavish, abundant lives… 

lives in which our character, our attitudes, our actions might reflect a generous and loving God. 

  1. The other passage from Paul written to the Corinthians relates to our resources – encouraging us to be people who abundantly give and share our time and money.

So first let’s think a bit further about the passage we heard from Luke.

The verses we heard are taken from what’s known as the Blessings and Woes.  Here we have Jesus speaking with his disciples.  Jesus begins by telling his disciples that they are to love their enemies. 

Now Jesus’ doesn’t mince his words…the original Greek words which Jesus uses reflect a hateful enemy or foe, who had a particularly malicious attitude bent on persecution.  They offer harmful curses and seek to threaten, mistreat and abuse others.  These are not nice people! 

And Jesus doesn’t just say to his disciples well force a smile and then mind your own business, rather he advises them to actively try to do good towards their attackers. 

He encourages them to love their enemies, to speak well of them and to pray for, intercede for them. 

And none are in the passive voice.  They don’t just take care of themselves, rather they are active verbs describing a deliberate action of doing good towards one’s enemies. 

This kind of love is hard work, deliberate and above all it is generous and abundant.  It’s about giving and sharing love with those who don’t deserve it…

it’s about going above and beyond the expected to share goodness and blessing.

Jesus then continues with his teaching making use of hyperbole.  (hi perr bo ley)

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to make a point…

I wonder how many times you’ve heard someone say…

I’ve done that a million times,

or I nearly died laughing,

or I was hopping mad. 

You get the idea. 

We are constantly finding means of expression to make a point. We allow “poetic license” to create word pictures that aren’t literally true, but that make a point in an especially poignant way. We’re a people of exaggeration in speech.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about stretching the truth here.

I’m talking about using exaggerations to make a point.

Jesus used exaggerations to make a point, too.

This was a common way of speaking in his day.

So, in verse 29 we read, “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (6:29)

“Turning the other cheek” has made it into the English language as an expression meaning to go out of your way to avoid a nasty confrontation. Even though provoked, instead of lashing out, you turn the other cheek. In fact, I think that’s pretty close to what this sentence means in Jesus’ teaching. Remember, the context is enemies, those who insult us and seek to embarrass us.

Jesus’ point is that we are to avoid hitting back, striking back, having the last word, wounding, the natural human reaction.

Though Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek is intended in the arena with a sworn enemy, the principle applies to every area of our lives.

Don’t retaliate. Don’t hit back. Don’t move from a position of prayerful love for your enemy to a drop-down, drag-out fight.

Love doesn’t retaliate. Be generous.

The second command is harder yet to understand. “If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic” (6:29b).

But the principle is the same.

When your enemy takes your cloak, remember that you love him or her.

You are praying for them. You are blessing them and seeking their good.

Don’t get grabby and nasty and accusing.

You love them, remember? Let them have your tunic also.

You see Jesus is seeking to train disciples to think and act and love like he does.

Turning the other cheek is indeed what he did as the soldiers spat on him and flogged him and forced a thorny crown into his scalp and mocked him as king.

Was he tempted to retaliate? Oh, yes! But he didn’t. Why? He loved them.

That is the radical lesson – we are to be those who are generous, abundant, prolific in our loving.

Jesus then gives several examples to illustrate the difference between a selfish, prudent way of dealing, and his own radical love — looking out for the other person’s best interests.

Even “sinners,” unbelievers, shrewd but relatively moral people, care about their friends. It’s good business. “What goes around, comes around,” so let’s all be nice.

But that isn’t Jesus’ point.

Jesus tells us to show kindness, especially when we won’t be beneficiaries of it later.

Unselfish, serving love — agape love — is what he is illustrating here.

Self-love seeks repayment — the sooner the better.

Agape love seeks no repayment. 

This is ultimate generosity.

Jesus reminds his disciples to be merciful…. Not when it is useful. Not when it is convenient. Not when the recipient is worthy.

Mercy is never justified. It is given freely.

This sort of mercy is costly… it may result in insults and slander…some blows to the cheek and stolen coats

but to learn this is to learn the essence of the gospel –

unmerited, costly forgiveness,

a lavish and abundant and generous love that knows no bounds or limits. 

Jesus finishes with these words – “do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you… a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

This is the climax of all that Jesus has been teaching his disciples…

they are to live lives that aren’t centred in judging and condemning, blaming, fault-finding, always being critical. 

Rather they are to be those who will forgive, who will be gracious, merciful, generous and tender-hearted people. 

Jesus talks about the degree of generosity be discussing measures…

and basically, Jesus is saying what you give out, you’ll get back…

Don’t get me wrong. I am not teaching that good Christians are wealthy, and that poverty is proof that we don’t have faith.

What I am saying is that somehow spiritually, there is a link, when we learn to give generously to God we open-up a new area of blessing for ourselves. 

Each of these commands shared with his disciples apply to us today… as those who are seeking to follow after Jesus and become more like him each day. 

These commands give us a framework for living lives that are generous in attitude and action. 

These commands encourage us to be lavish, abundant, plentiful Christians – those who will give above and beyond what is necessary or required. 

To be those who are inexhaustibly generous. 

This is the heart of the Christian faith…  that we would live generously as disciples in this world… at home, at school, in our communities and homes…

that we might be a blessing to others.

Very quickly now I just want to look at our other reading.

This passage was written by Paul to Christians in living in Corinth – urging them to be generous. 

This time the focus isn’t on inner living…

but rather on the practical outpouring of finances,

the giving of money and resources to support and aid the furtherance of God’s kingdom. 

Paul had made an arrangement with the Christians in Corinth to give a financial gift to the needy Christians in Jerusalem. 

And although we do not know the exact size or nature of this gift…

there are two points, two principles that Paul shares

and apply to us today as we consider the financial gifts, the resources we give to others…

The first is whoever sows sparingly, will reap sparingly.  Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Paul uses a farming concept to illustrate a spiritual truth.

If you put only a few seeds in the ground, you will not have much crop. Sowing sparingly is to withhold giving and to lack generosity. Sowing bountifully is to be generous and giving.

We see this point expressed in verse 7. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion…” This is also the same principle that is taught by God found in Proverbs.

One gives freely yet grows all the richer; another withholds what they should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will themselves be watered. (Proverbs 11:24–25 ESV)

It is a counter-intuitive principle.

We think that the more generosity we show the less we will have.

We think that the more we hold tightly to money and are stingy, then the more money we will retain.

But Paul teaches that it does not work like that.

The second point, the second principle Paul makes is that God loves a cheerful giver.

We should stop and reflect when God says there is a certain characteristic that he loves.

God loves a person who gives cheerfully.

God loves the person who wants to give and does so.

We shouldn’t need to be commanded to be generous.

We want to be generous because that is the kind of heart God loves.

Paul is saying that we are on the wrong side of the scale with God if we sow sparingly and lack generosity.

Further, giving reluctantly or under compulsion is sowing sparingly.

God wants generosity. God loves generosity. God is generosity.

And that is the overriding principle, the overriding truth behind all of what we’ve considered. 

  • Our God is the most amazing, generous God…  He created the most amazing world. He provided for us in creation and sustains it, and we give thanks for it today. 
  • Our God is the most amazing, generous God, who loves us, cares for us and gave his life for us that we might know freedom, healing and relationship.    
  • Our God is the most amazing, generous God, who invites us, encourages us to draw near to him and as we experience his love to be generous in our lifestyles, generous in our actions, generous in attitudes and generous in giving and sharing our resources, our money, our time with those around us. 

In all that we are and do, we will seek to be a blessing to others, generous with our time and resources.

Let’s pray –

Father God – we ask very simply that this would be true for each of us, that as your people in this community we might be generous, that in all we do and say we may be a blessing to others.  Amen