Summary: Generosity is at the core of a disciple's life. Jesus calls us to generous living, and generosity begins with our money.
Do we believe it’s possible to live a generous life? Do we believe it’s important to live a generous life? Do we believe it’s necessary to live a generous life? We’ve spent the last four weeks reflecting on how to live generously in every respect of discipleship as United Methodists—our prayers, our witness, our presence and our service. We come this morning to reflect on perhaps the most important aspect of our generosity—our gifts. How we live with our gifts (our money) forms the basis for the generosity we demonstrate in every area of our lives. After all, Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel that “where your treasure is, there will be your heart also” (Matt. 6:21 NIV). Jesus made that statement in his famous “Sermon on the Mount” as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. The text we read this morning comes from Luke’s account of the “Sermon on the Plain.”
There is much in common between these two sermons of Jesus. In both, Jesus turns the disciple’s lives upside down as he offers an alternative “measure” by which one can and should live his/her life. I use the word “measure” because it’s the word Jesus used as he summed up, in Luke’s gospel, the meaning and purpose of a Kingdom-centered life. The “measure” Jesus was referring to was a picture his hearers would be familiar with. Jesus said if we give that he will give to us in “good measure.” Good measure pressed down draws on what happened in the marketplace in those days. The grain seller would place grain in a container. Then he would shake the container to get the grain to level out so that he could put more grain in the measure. That is how God measures for the generous and those who give. Jesus adds, in fact, the cup will run over, so much so that it lands in the “lap” of the giver.
In the first century, a person’s garment was designed such that the hem of the outer cloak could be rolled up and tucked into the belt to create a pouch to carry more items than could be held in one’s hands. Remember when you were a kid and you were playing with your Hotwheels? You wanted to play with all of them, but you weren’t blessed to have one of those little nice carrying cases like you saw in the JCPenny Christmas catalog, so what did you do? You rolled up the bottom of your shirt and stated putting all those little cars in the pouch you created. My grandmother had a garden every year. I still remember vividly how sometimes she’d go out to the garden and she’d find peas or butter beans ready that she hadn’t anticipated being ready. Rather than going back to the shed for a bucket, she’d roll up her apron and create a pouch and go down the row filling that pouch with peas or butter beans. She’d especially do that with tomatoes. That’s the picture Jesus is painting with the image of the overflow of God’s grace pouring out into the lap of the disciple who lives a generous life.
We attach a generous life to money, and rightfully so, but Jesus, in the context of his message in Luke attaches it to every area of life. Hear the words of Jesus that precede verse 38:
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6: 27 – 38 NLT)