Tag Archives: Giving

So So

I was in the sixth grade (in those days that was still elementary school). I was part of the safety patrol – responsible at an intersection for making sure no students crossed the street until it was clear to do so. One day, a much younger boy tripped and fell right near my corner. So I helped him up made sure he was okay, which he was. Shortly thereafter I ran for Mayor of the school. My mother told me that another mother had shared with her that her son had voted for me because I had been so nice to him the day he fell. It, of course, made my mother feel some pride – and I was always happy when that happened! But I remember thinking that it was really nothing special that I did, and wondered if it wasn’t something that anyone would have done. Little did I realize at that time a couple of lessons. One – not everyone would have helped. Two – I had experienced the divine law of reciprocity. Both lessons would be reinforced many, many times throughout my life.

Yet it was many years later when I finally recognized the divine nature of my actions. Paul said it most clearly in two passages: Galatians 6:7-10 – “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we will not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” And he mentioned the same principle in 2 Cor. 9:6 in regards to giving. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Whether it’s in giving, or in praying, or in loving, or in our relationships what we sow, we reap. Even if we do not see it right away, God will reciprocate – it’s His promise.

I admit that sometimes I get weary of sowing all the time and begin to feel as if there is no return. After all constant sowing can be boring and not all that exciting – sometimes even burdensome. But since it’s a promise of God, I’ve adopted a principle: “When life is just so so, just sow sow.” Even if I never see the return in this life, I will in eternity. Then again, when I stop the self-pity routine and examine my life, I begin to see again the blessings God has poured into my life. He, like my little fellow student, votes for me in a myriad of ways through the blessings He sends – and I know there are many blessings I will never realize until that great and glorious day! In fact, I shudder to think of life without the blessings. I’m convinced that the saddest people, and some of the most depressed, are often those who are not sowing. So their lives are just so so – lacking in blessing and joy. The bottom line is we all have a choice – we can live so so lives or sow sow lives; it all depends on what we want out of life. “When life is just so so, just sow sow.”

And I’ve discovered one more element about the sow sow life. Once we begin to sow it becomes a habit, a pattern, a life-style. Without realizing it we are soon sowing into others lives not because we want a return but because it’s what we were created to do; therefore we feel a sense of inner peace and joy, a sense of fulfillment whenever we sow. And really, that’s blessing enough. Come to think of it, that’s when we’re most like Christ. No wonder it’s enough. So – will your life be so so or sow sow? Remember, what you sow, you reap.

Dealing With the Overflow

I was pouring from a pitcher into my drinking glass and wasn’t paying attention – and before I knew it the overflow was on the countertop. So I grabbed a ‘quick picker upper’ and wiped it up. I then gave myself the usual brow beating for being so careless.

Yet once again I was struck by the amazing way God works. At that time I had been preparing messages on the blessings of giving and had been making presentations for our church stewardship campaign. My personal focus was on Malachi 3 and 2 Corinthians 9, which both deal with abundance and overflow of blessings. I thought of the two key passages.

Malachi 3:8-12 (New Living Translation)

“Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!
“But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’
“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me.10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 12 “Then all nations will call you blessed, for your land will be such a delight,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

2 Corinthians 9:6-12
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

My brow beating stopped – I realized that rather than berate myself I should have stopped and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. After all, I had enough supply of drink, more than I needed; I had an excess. I was reminded of the many times God’s rich abundance has overflowed in my life. My lesson for the day was “When you need paper towels, thank God for the overflow.”

With a different analogy another of my facvorite poems, this one by Jimmy Dean, states it poignantly.

I’ve never made a fortune
And I’ll never make one now,
But it really doesn’t matter
Cause I’m happy anyhow.

As I go along my journey
I’m reaping better than I sow.
I’m drinking from the saucer
Cause my cup has overflowed.

I don’t have a lot of riches
And sometimes the going’s tough,
But when I’ve got my kids to love me
I think I’m rich enough.

I’ll just thank God for the blessings
That his mercy has bestowed,
I’m drinking from the saucer
Cause my cup has overflowed.

If you give me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I’ll not ask for other blessings,
I’m already blessed enough.

May I never be too busy
To help another with his load,
Then I’ll be drinking from the saucer
Cause my cup has overflowed.

From what are you drinking?

Picture from: https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2F4.bp.blogspot.com%2F-h9QaKEXloug%2FVMaX3j7hkoI%2FAAAAAAAAAsA%2FP8bljavJ5gw%2Fs1600%2FDrinking%252Bfrom%252Bmy%252Bsaucer.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fleonachoy.blogspot.com%2F2015%2F01%2Fdrinking-from-my-saucer.html&docid=Z15xYstXjiFSSM&tbnid=u8-St3C2O8RjCM%3A&vet=10ahUKEwj4yJHFp67dAhUh1oMKHRZlCDgQMwhKKBAwEA..i&w=583&h=437&bih=738&biw=1160&q=drinking%20from%20a%20saucer&ved=0ahUKEwj4yJHFp67dAhUh1oMKHRZlCDgQMwhKKBAwEA&iact=mrc&uact=8

An Incomplete List

Thanksgiving Day is past. But thoughts of gratitude still linger. As part of our celebration some of our family jotted down what they were thankful for. My list was easy – my top three are Jesus and Salvation, a godly loving wife, and a precious family. In some ways it’s hard to argue with my list. Yet today I read an old story I once used to challenge others to consider what gratitude and blessing are all about – and I’m wondering if my list is incomplete. The story goes like this:

An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bade us good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear. To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn’t alcohol but cataracts that “marbleized” his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion. On one visit he exclaimed, ‘The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.’ ‘That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth!’ we said. ‘We’re happy for you.’ ‘You know what’s even more wonderful?’ he asked. ‘Just yesterday I met some people who could use them.’

When the Lord is our treasure, when our heart has been given over to Him and filled by Him, thankfulness and gratitude should never be an end in themselves. Rather, they should lead to sharing our wealth of blessings, no matter how much or little they are. That’s where I sense some incompleteness in my list. Shouldn’t the joy of giving be somewhere near the top? Yes – it should. And once again I am challenged to see what more, and in what other ways I can give – not as a duty but joyfully because of what God has given me in His Son. Surely – what I have is something someone else can use! Surely the blessing I have received is one someone else needs.

I need to embrace again the worlds of the Apostle Paul.

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 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 8:1-9)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

That pretty much says it all. May my blessings and your blessings find their way into the life and heart of someone who needs them. May the heart of Christ find it’s way through us into their hearts. Then my list will be complete.

More

I was humored and saddened recently when I heard the NFL players complaining about their salaries. Their basic complaint seemed to be that NBA players were getting higher salaries and fatter contracts; they felt it wasn’t fair. They talked about striking when their current deal with the team owners ends – which is still a few years away.

I was humored because it’s hard to listen seriously to multi-millionaires complaining they do not get paid enough. I was saddened because it reminded me again of the insidious power of greed.

So how do people become greedy? How do you and I become greedy? There are three common misconceptions about possessions. One such misconception is that having more will make me happier. “If only I had more money, a bigger car, more house, more clothes…” Think about it – the more you own, the more space, repairs and maintenance will be needed; there will be more requests from others for money and donations necessitating still more time and money. Many adults today have more than their parents ever had yet are enjoying it less and are deeper in debt. They live on a treadmill trying to keep up and get ahead. It’s like trying to fill the Grand Canyon with marbles – it will never happen. There just aren’t enough marbles. Having more will not make us happier. Rather, the reality is that it’s like drinking salt water when you’re thirsty – the more you drink the thirstier you will become.

No wonder the wise preacher of Ecclesiastes wrote: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them?” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). Or as the New Living Translation puts it: “Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what is the advantage of wealth-except perhaps to watch it run through your fingers?”

A second misconception is that having more will increase my worth. Yet in reality, greed is buying things with money we do not have to impress people we do not know or like. Why? Because we tend to think our net-worth is the same as our self-worth.
That’s why Jesus said: “…a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). You are not what you own! You are what – or who – owns you! Who or what owns you? Can you say with conviction that you are not your own but belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior Jesus Christ? There’s your net worth.

The third misconception is having more will give me more security. Of course, that security disappears as soon as the stock market turns down and insurance rates go up! Solomon, in Proverbs, wrote: “Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (11:28).

So how do we lessen our greed? One of the best cures for greed is to develop a giving lifestyle. In 2nd Chronicles 31:2-10 we are told that King Hezekiah “…ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give the portion due the priests and Levites so they could devote themselves to the Law of the LORD. As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything…Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the LORD, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the LORD has blessed his people, and this great amount is left over.” Jesus said: “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?… Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk. 9:25 & 12: 33-34).

These thoughts come from chapter 5 of 7 Habits of Highly Healthy People (Antidotes for the 7 Deadly Sins) by Pastor Curry. For more information go to https://www.pastorcurry.com/books/ . Or contact Pastor Curry for discounted copies of the book.

 

 

A Thankful Heart

Elderly, old, mature man close up portrait

The following story seems appropriate for this week of Thanksgiving.

An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bade us good morning and offered his produce for sale.  We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear. To our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn’t alcohol but cataracts that “marbleized” his eyes. On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he’d puff out old gospel tunes between conversations about vegetables and religion. On one visit he exclaimed, ‘The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.’ ‘That’s wonderful, Mr. Roth!’ we said. ‘We’re happy for you.’ ‘You know what’s even more wonderful?’ he asked. ‘Just yesterday I met some people who could use them.’

So what are you thankful for? And what are you doing with it?

(This story – author unknown – can be found in Stories for the Heart, compiled by Alice Gray, Multnomah Books, 2001, p. 53)