Summary: Generosity does not come naturally. It takes PRACTICE.
You can tell that it is time for the presidential campaigns. There are polls in every issue of every paper, every day.
I thought I’d start this morning’s sermon with a poll.
Just a simple show of hands will do.
How many of you here today would like to be remembered as a skin flint who was selfish and greedy -- raise your hands.
OK, how many would like to be remembered as generous?
Most people would rather be remembered as a generous person than a selfish person. One of St. Paul’s New Testament letters is a short note named Philippians. This is a great letter and it’s very personal. Paul is in prison, and the Philippians have sent him a gift. This letter is essentially a thank-you note.
In the letter, Paul tells his readers, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
The story is told of a mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin, 5, and Ryan, 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake; I can wait.”
Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you should be like Jesus! Give me that first pancake!”
Well, we should all be like Jesus. We should all learn to become more generous.
Our elders have identified seven marks of discipleship that all of our church members should embrace and demonstrate in our lives. One of these is giving our time, talent and money. Put another way, we should all be generous.
We need to be generous to one another. Neighbors need to be generous to people in their community. Family members need to be generous to relatives. Strangers need to be generous to one another.
In a recent telephone survey, a question was asked “Do you consider yourself to be a generous person?” An overwhelming number -- over 90% -- said yes. This was followed up by a second question. “Describe the last time you did something that was generous.”
Now surveyors did not consider the details of the answer important. Instead, they had a stop watch in hand and they were timing the respondents to see how long it took them to begin to remember their last generous act.
The average time? Twenty seconds.
A long time. They would have a few seconds of silence. Then they would hem and haw for a moment with slowly saying, “Welllllll, let me seeeee.”
If it takes us that long to remember the last time we were generous, then we can’t be a TRULY generous people.
We want to be generous.
God’s Word tells us to be generous.
How, then, can we become generous?
First, generous people don’t put their trust in money.
St. Paul tells us in our New Testament lesson, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain.“
On all American money there is a motto, “In God We Trust.“ Unfortunately, we don’t trust the words of the motto, we trust the money it is printed on.
One of the popular shows on television this year is “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?“
I don’t need another show of hands. I know if asked, most if not all of us would raise our hands and say “yes” I want to be a millionaire.
Why? We dream of winning the lottery. We dream of striking it rich. Why?
Because we think that money will solve all of our problems. Money gives us happiness. Money gives us security.
The car breaks down -- if we had enough money, we’d just buy a new one.
The kids aren’t happy -- if we had enough money, we’d just take them to Disney World for a month.
The house is a mess -- if we had enough money, we’d just hire a maid.
Money makes us secure -- or at least, that is the common way of thinking.
From time to time I get a letter from the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. The letter always says the same thing, “Congratulations Maynard Pittendreigh,” and of course they almost always spell my name incorrectly. “You may already have won a million dollars.” Most of the time, these letters are thrown into the trash without even being opened, but once in a while I’ll take a look at it. Somewhere in the letter there is the phrase, “Imagine having security for the rest of your life.”