Overflowing Generosity

2021-06-27 – Year B – Proper 8 – The Rev. Carrie Klukas
Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 112; 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; Mark 5:22-43

Lord Jesus thank you for your generous gift of yourself that you grant to us. Thank you that you lead the way in generosity and we can follow you trusting in your faithfulness and provision for our lives. Thank you that you are faithful in the small things and mighty to show up in the large things. In your name we pray. Amen.

This week’s scripture passages are ripe with beautiful encouragement to share, give, and to provide for others. The Old Testament passage implores us to live lives that are poised to be ready to help and to serve. As Christians we are called to meet the needs of those around us both as a church body and also as individuals.The Deuteronomy passage implores us to not harden our hearts at the needs of others but rather to find ways to engage their needs and to provide for them if we are able. In the current culture of the day we live with a constant sense of not having enough and needing more. We live lives barraged with messages of being in want. It can sometimes feel as if we can not do anything for others. In many countries and cultures around the world and even in our country if you have running water, electricity, and minimal food on your table then you have something to share. Each and everyone of us can care for someone else in some way. 

Perhaps it is spending $5 or $10 more at the grocery store to provide for the food give away, buying cans of vegetables or tubes of toothpaste. If you haven’t had a chance to be a part of the food give away I encourage you to get involved. Our church’s food giveaway shares food with those in Clay County who feel they are in need. Once a month we offer free food. Since the pandemic we have been using a much smaller group to run the food giveaway. As the pandemic lessens more workers can be used to run the food giveaway. Sometimes there are many workers and other times they are really in need of strong arms and legs. Even if you can’t lift much I am sure there is work you can do. Many hands make work light. In this ministry we ask nothing of those who come to us. We do not ask anyone to prove their need, we just freely give. We trust that God will handle who needs help and the souls of those who come. It is a powerful opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our local community. It is also an opportunity to offer dignity to others and remember there is always going to be a time in our lives when we will need help. Giving to others should be about restoring their dignity and not boosting our own selves or thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought. 

God also calls us to meet the needs of those in our own church community. One of the most beautiful examples of this that I have seen came from our time serving in the seminary. The students organized a free sale in which students brought items from their homes that they no longer needed or wanted everything from clothes, earrings, kid toys, grills, garden tools, golf clubs, movies, kitchen supplies. You name it they brought it. Anyone was allowed to come and take what they needed. All of these students were adults who had given up their income for three years in order to study to serve the church. All of the students were in tremendous need and yet they shared what they had and swapped with others going home with new things and feeling rich. From their poverty they provided for each other and one person’s cast offs became another’s answer to prayer. Many women were able to cloth themselves and their children through this ministry since they had little money to spare on clothes. Finding ways to share things you no longer need with others is a great way to care for the kingdom of believers. When I was in Pittsburgh I had a group of moms who I would share kids clothes, shoes, and baby equipment with. Around and around the clothes would go so everyone could spend as little as possible on things that were quickly outgrown. 

When we look around our home we should always be looking for things we no longer need or things that might bless another person. Another way of being generous is to sell items significantly less than what they would go for. Using services like Craig’s list and Facebook Marketplace allow us to rid our homes of unnecessary items, making a little bit of money while mainly blessing another person. I have found this helpful when I have something I can not think of anyone that I know to give it to. Over the last 16 years I have met countless people grateful to have my unusable item to me for such a good deal. My life has been greatly blessed by knowing these other people and their stories. 

If you are a gardener who grows produce chances are you will grow more than you can possibly consume. Sharing your bounty with others can be an incredible blessing. I know from being on the receiving end of vegetables that I am almost brought to tears for peoples acts of kindness in sharing their fresh produce with me. Whole food is some people’s love languages!!! Also sharing your first fruits of your crop with another can expand your faith. Not being the first one to taste your bounty may grow in you an appreciation for all that God can cause to grow. Seeking to bless others with your bounty will expand your appreciation for God’s blessing of your work. 

In the past when I have focused on scarcity or not having enough I notice that I am less willing to share. I notice my hands are more tightly clenched and unwilling to share all that God has given me. We think that we have acquired all that we have from our own hard work and effort. But really it is God who gives us breath and God who strengthens us to work, and God who inspires our minds to be creative. It is by God’s incredible grace that we rise and go about our lives. If any of you have ever felt sick or ever suffered an illness or injury you know that life really is very fragile and hanging by a thread. Our lives can change in the blink of an eye and it is God’s grace that moves us forward or gives us another day. All that we have should be held on to loosely as it is all God’s anyway. When we feel stingy and have a scarcity mindset the remedy is to open our hands and give something we have to others so that our hearts change. 

Tithing is a way to remember whose money we are stewarding. Tithing reminds us that money is a tool meant to be used to provide for ourselves and our family and the needs of others. For the Christian tithing ten percent of your income should be done at all times even when you are paying off debt or even quite young. If you take in money at all as a Christian we should freely give 10 percent back to the work of the kingdom in our local Church. Fr. Chris and I give 10 percent of our income from all of our jobs to our church here, and then we additionally financially support missionaries as well. We did not begin tithing together like this but rather worked up to it. We began giving to our church after we finished our college degrees and our masters degrees and began making an income. We do this because we need to remember that nothing is truly ours alone. We were naked when we came into this world and we will not be able to take anything with us when we die. Our time on earth is meant to be in stewardship of God’s resources in order to bless those in our family and those that God brings into our paths.

Generosity is not something that comes easily to many of us. As we practice sharing with others it becomes easier. At first watching our tithe money leaving our bank account and seeing it in proportion to the rest of our income was extremely difficult for me. It felt hard at first to set a detailed budget for the month knowing that I couldn’t spend money on other things because we needed to fulfill our promise to God to support our local church. However over time I began to experience God’s provision for our life. I would see someone else’s generosity provide a need of new shoes for a child. I would see how setting aside $40 every month in an emergency fund meant that a car repair was just an inconvenience and not an emergency. I could see how God has provided additional part time jobs that allow us to continue to serve in the church. 

Tithing is often thought of as a not necessary part of the Christian faith however the act of giving up your hard earned money changes the shape of your heart. The only time we shouldn’t tithe is when you are a full time student and are not receiving any income whatsoever. Our young children have been holding bake sales at the end of our driveway this summer and they are learning about giving, saving, and spending. As they learn to give, God will show them His great provision in their lives. As we learn to give we begin to see God’s provision more clearly in our lives. Chris and I raise six children by carefully stewarding our finances. 

Once we were out of seminary we had to figure out how to regularly give. It was very tempting after not having an income for so long to continue to use all our money for paying off student loans and personal debt. However a wonderful financially oriented woman from Fr. Chris’ first church encouraged us to tithe consistently and regularly. Sundays are very full for our family and getting our tithe in was almost always a challenge. So we were missing our tithes. She helped us find a good system to make it happen every month. Using our bank’s online bill pay worked wonderfully for us. Once a month I set up our tithe and asked God to provide for us. As we gave even though it was a strain we watched God over and over again provide for us. Either with people who helped us fix things, people who share out of their bounty, or people who shared a place of retreat for us. We do a once a month budget in which we plan what we will spend for the month and then meet again and talk about how the month really went. Our tithe is the first thing put in the budget and God has always cared for us. 

The Lord says we should give freely and not grudgingly, we should offer what we can to others and meet their needs for the Lord will bless you for your work and for all that you undertake. The Lord says that we should open wide our hands to our brother and to those in need. How does God want you to meet the needs of those who are around you? Do you have things in abundance that could bless someone else? Do you see people around you who need help and perhaps you could help meet their needs? Does God want to bless someone through your help, attention, and generosity? Generous living is living your best life freely giving that which is God’s and caring for others. 

The Psalm today says, “Hallelujah!  Happy are they who fear the Lord and have great delight in his commandments!Their descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in their house, and their righteousness will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the upright; the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.” Our Psalm today encourages us to fear the Lord in a way of respect and realize that God will provide for our needs. The righteous trust that God has a good plan and will provide for them. The righteous look to the ways of the Lord and find it a good and trustworthy place to be. The righteous pass down their faith and generosity so that the generations of people will continue to be a light to those around. The righteous are to be merciful to those around them so that the love of Jesus might be seen in our actions and our lives and that we the Church would be known for our compassion. The righteous are to have compassion for others and not harden off their hearts to the needs of others. 

The Epistle reading today speaks of the churches in Macedonia in which there was extreme poverty due to affliction and yet they overflowed with joy and generosity. The scriptures speak over and over again to giving in our suffering and giving even in the midst of affliction. One of our friends from Trinity School for Ministry was called to be the Bishop of the Horn of Africa. It is an enormous area in Africa with profound poverty. We watched them sell almost all of their worldly belongings when they should have been getting ready for retirement and going to serve the people in Africa. When they would come back to the United States they shared stories of God’s working amongst some of the poorest people on earth. They shared stories of profound generosity. In this part of the world there are often famines in which no food can be grown for years, so people rely heavily on shipments of corn for basic sustenance. One particular time a truck arrived and every last bit of corn was found in the floor of the truck and carefully divided amongst the people. Our friend Bishop Grant and his wife  Dr. Wendy learned to eat like the people often going long stretches without food and they saw people share what meager amounts of food they have with each other even at the expense of going without yet another meal. Needless to say they lost a lot of weight while there and had a front row seat to watch God provide for His people. The joy on Bishop Grant and Dr. Wendy’s faces were incredible; they saw profound generosity and it had changed them like never before. 

Psalm 34:10 says, “The lion may grow weak and hungry but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” The lion is one of the strongest animals on the earth and yet they all grow weak and hungry, they all will be in need. But according to scripture those who seek the Lord will not lack in good things. God provides that which we need and cares for us. Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch Christian woman who helped people escape the Nazis by hiding them in her house and moving them underground. She was eventually found out and put in a prison camp. While there her barracks were overrun with fleas and the women counted it as a blessing because the soldiers would not enter and left the women alone. Because of the fleas the women were able to have bible studies with a Bible that was smuggled into the camp. Then they translated the scriptures into three languages and women could be fed faith even in the midst of such horrible conditions. Good things come in a wide array of options depending on our life circumstances. God promises in His word to provide for us and to help us in our times of need, sometimes it may be corn or sometimes it may be fleas, or sometimes it may be an abundance of something that we can share with another. 

God is in the business of shaping our hearts and lives and bringing us closer to him. God is in the business of changing us for the better. Being generous sharing with others expands our hearts and helps us to invest in the lives of others. When we invest in the lives of others we get to invest in the soul of another and therefore in eternity. No matter what you do with your life, make sure you invest in the lives of others. Make sure you give generously and joyfully for the sake of building up the kingdom of God. Make sure you know your purpose and live it out in the world. For if you do you will live a fulfilling life, one of joy and of the presence of the Lord. 

This is Gafcon Sunday in which we remember that we are a part of an international church and we pray for our brothers and sisters around the world. This is an especially joyful time for the Gafcon churches because we get to celebrate the powerful healing of our General Secretary of Gafcon and the archbishop of Nigeria, Bishop Benjamin Kwashi. Bishop Kwashi just returned to Nigeria after spending eight months in America receiving treatments and tons of healing prayer for stage 4 colon cancer. And God in His power and glory has sought to save him, heal him, and allow him to return to his work there. You see Bishop Kwashi has had multiple attempts on his life, bombs, bullets, riots, churches and properties being burned often with his people being in them. His wife has suffered violent intimate assault and was left for dead. And God has shown up over and over again to provide for them. They in response have taken in over 100 children to call their own. If any child comes to them needing a home they provide. They provide safe places for the kids and they raise them up to have professions and help launch them into their adult life. This is the kingdom of God in action and when we pray during Prayers of the People for our international church remember these heroes of the faith. And remember them in your giving. Remember that the churches in the Gafcon community are often in frontline situations sharing the Gospel in very difficult places. Our generosity can truly reach around the globe and touch the lives of others.

So may you be inspired to experience the Lord afresh by giving to his kingdom and may you know His joy in your giving. I pray that each and everyone of us would be challenged to see how we can engage our neighborhoods, our church, and those in our country, and those around the world. May we each be inspired by the Lord to be more generous people who do not hold back our compassion of one another but rather give to those who the Lord brings into our lives. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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