Summary: One of the marks of discipleship is generosity. But we are challenged about this everytime we come to the offering in the worship service.
The story is told about a man who was stingy and miserly. People looked at this person as a real skin-flint.
One day, one of the folks in the town was given the task of serving as the chairman of the community charity. He decided he was going to start with the town skin-flint. He was determined to get a contribution from him. After all, if he could get this man to give, he could get anyone to give to the fund-raiser.
So he knocked on the skin-flint’s door one day and when the stingy miser opened it, the fund-raiser said, “Look here, our records show that despite your wealth, you’ve never once given to our community charity.”
The man looked at the fund-raiser and became angry.
“Do your records show that I have an elderly mother who was left penniless when my father died? Do your records show that I have a disabled brother who is unable to work? Do your records show I have a widowed sister with three small children who can barely make ends meet?”
The embarrassed and humiliated fund raiser looked at his neighbor in a new light and simply said, “No. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
The man looked at the fund-raiser, still flushed with anger, and said, “Well, I don’t give to any of them, so why should I give anything to you?” (Landon Parvin in Leaders, Readers Digest, May 1996, pp. 67-68.)
Our elders have identified 7 marks of discipleship that we would like for all of our church members to embrace and demonstrate in our lives. One of these marks is the mark of generosity – Giving our time, talent and money.
Most of us would like to think that we are generous by nature, but the reality is that most of us are not as generous as we should be or could be.
I read an interesting story recently about a woman named Eunice Pike, who for several decades worked with the Mazatec Indians in Southwestern Mexico.
During this time she has discovered some interesting things about these people. For instance, these people seldom wish someone well. Not only that, they are hesitant to teach one another or to share the gospel with each other. If asked, “Who taught you to bake bread?” the village baker answers, “I just know,” meaning he has acquired the knowledge without anyone’s help.
Pike says this odd behavior stems from the Indian’s concept of “limited good.”
They believe there is only so much good, so much knowledge, so much love to go around. To teach another means you might drain yourself of knowledge. To love a second child means you have to love the first child less. To wish someone well—“Have a good day”—means you have just given away some of your own happiness, which cannot be reacquired. (Bernie May, “Learning to Trust,” Multnomah Press, 1985)
Contrast that with the Christian mandate to be generous. In our faith, whether we practice it or not, we affirm that the more you give, the more you receive.
In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, (Eccl 11:1), we read, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.”
The more you give, the fuller your life becomes.
Time and again in Scripture, we are told to be a generous people. Psalm 112:5 says, “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.”
Proverbs 11:25 teaches us, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”
When St. Paul was giving instructions to Timothy, he wrote the younger man (1 Tim 6:18), “Command (people) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
These actions of generosity should be joined with an attitude of generosity. Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians, (2 Cor 9:7), “Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
And yet, most of us are like the Mazatec. We act as if there is only so much good that can go around, so we are stingy with it.
A man had a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. He could receive little company and was not to be excited. The doctors and family were literally afraid that if the man had too much excitement, he would drop dead.
While in the hospital a rich uncle died and left him a million dollars.
But the family was afraid to tell the man about his good fortune. After all, he might get so excited he could drop dead.
His family wondered how to break the news to him with the least amount of excitement so they decided to ask the family’s minister if he would go and break the news quietly to the man. Apparently, the family minister was not very exciting.