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Friendship With Our Maker

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God’s Generosity






Displaying God’s Generosity

Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill

You know how many think Jewish people are kind of mean and miserly and grabbing and greedy. But there is in them great generosity and you find that many of the libraries and many of the public institutions have received a lot of gifts from Jewish people. And I think it’s because there’s great generosity in the law. We always think of the law in the Old Testament as very don’t do this, do that, don’t do this but there’s great generosity built into it. And it’s interesting if you read it carefully you find that. There’s a kindly heart behind God’s commands.

Deuteronomy 24:10, “When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge.” So he presumably gives you something, “I’ll give you this money and I’ll take your coat as guarantee.” “You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge,” it’s interesting if it’s his coat, or if it’s his blanket you won’t sleep in it. “When the sun goes down, you shall restore to him the pledge that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the Lord your God.” Just very kindly, you know.

“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the Lord, and it be sin in you. The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin. You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge; but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

So it’s interesting, God reminds them, “You were nothing but slaves and I lifted you out of it and really I have been generous to you, that’s the way I want you to live.” Shall we with grace sit down? Loved ones, will you look at Leviticus 19, it’s another repeat of that sentiment that we read before Leviticus 19, and it’s to the old farmers. Leviticus 19:9, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border,” so you know there was kind of a field like that you see, and God was saying, “You know, don’t reap right up to there. Leave this bit, leave this bit. Don’t reap it right up to the very edge.” So there’s the edge you see, and he was saying, “Don’t reap it right up to the edge when you harvest your field.”

“You shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest,” and the farmers know it better than me but I take it the gleanings are what is left over after the first time they take the reaper across the field. Then they go back and pick up the little bits. He said, “Neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare; neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard.” So

presumably you have a tree and you’d have all kinds of grapes on it and God was saying, “Don’t take it absolutely bare to the branches. No, no, leave some grapes on it and there are grapes that fall down here, don’t gather them, you see, leave them.” “And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” So that’s it you know.

I think it’s easy for us who call ourselves Christians not to do that. You remember there was a book that came out Kids of the King or The Kings Kids and it was one of those modern slang American books that emphasize that we’re the kids of a millionaire father, of a very rich father. We are the children of a father who is very rich. I think it’s very easy for us to miss this whole reality. I think it’s very easy for Christians to get a name for, “Boy, reap it right up to the edge. That’s good stewardship. Reap it right up to the edge, that’s good stewardship. Get everything, after all God has given it all to us and we need to get every bit of it and that’s just good farming, to reap it right up to the edge. And this business, this is important, these little grapes that fall or the grapes that we missed on the first time we picked the trees, go back and pick them all. After all, they belong to God and they’re his gift to us, we ought to get everything we can.”

I’m not sure that we do that because of those reasons. That is, I’m not sure that we really do say, “Now God has given us all this so we ought to be careful with it,” because in all kinds of other ways we’re often wasteful. I think we do it because we’re mean. I better say in America we mean, mean is cruel and ugly isn’t it but I mean, mean in the British sense miserly. I don’t know what it is Orest (a member of the audience) in Ukrainian, miserly. When you’re miserly with money but you’d have to think of the word and help Oksana with it. But I think we who are God’s children are often miserly. That is I think we reap it right up to the edge because we don’t want to miss anything that God has given us.

And often we clothe it in holy terms and we say, “Oh no, we’re doing it because after all the Lord has given us all this field and we ought not to leave any of it.” But here he is right at the beginning you might say, of time and saying, “Look, don’t reap your field to the very edge, don’t reap it to the very edge. Look at the hills, have I counted the daffodils? Have I counted the number of daffodils I’ve put on each hill? Have I counted the grass under your feet? Have I numbered it all? Is there anything where I have not at times wasted you would say, wasted? How many little turtles are born and how many actual survive? How many birds are born and how many survive? How many insects or worms do you think there are under the earth? Would you notice if there were a million or two less? No, you wouldn’t.

How many colors have you seen under the ocean? Do you know that there are colors there that none of you will ever see? I am full of love and of a desire for beauty and I scatter it everywhere and your whole world is proof of that. You have far more sea water than you need; you have far more wind than you need. You have far more richness in the earth than you need. That is my heart to you. Think how much money you have wasted in your own life, think how much time you have wasted. I have not held back. I have not numbered and counted it out to you. So you, don’t reap it right to the edge. None of it is yours; I gave it all to you. Don’t reap it to the edge; leave the edges for poor people who have no field, for others to gather. Yes, leave the edges out of shear generosity even if nobody gathers it. Have a generosity in your life and a generosity in your heart. Don’t count every penny. I have not counted every penny to you.”

And of course it’s the same heart you remember, you get in Jesus. Remember that piece in Philippians, “Have that mind in you which you have in Christ who counted not equality with God a

thing to be grasped but emptied himself and became as a servant.” And it seems to me God is saying, “You can have to two minds,” in Ireland it’s a saying we have if you ask us, “Are you going to the movie tonight?” We’ll say, “Well, I’m in two minds. I’m in two minds whether I’ll go or not.” And what we mean is we have two attitudes about it. We’d like to see the movie but we don’t know if we could be bothered going out on such a wet night to see it.

And it depends on which side you look at it what attitude you have towards it. Well, that’s what God is saying, “Have the mind in you which you actually have in Jesus.” That is, “I have made you in my son and you’ll find inside yourself at times this kind of mind operates in you, this kind of spirit rises up inside you.” You feel, “Yeah, let’s be generous,” and God is saying, “Have that mind. Go with that mind. Go with the mind of Jesus. Be like Jesus. Be like me; don’t go with that other mind, that narrow little mean squirrel like mind that says, ‘Well, I can’t be sure where I’ll get my next meal. I can’t be sure if I give this away whether I’ll get anymore. I’m really dependent on my own cleverness here, on my own earning ability, on my own ability to make do with the little that my mean miserly Father has given me. I’m dependent on that and so I better be careful that I don’t waste any of it and by waste I mean give any of it away. I don’t give any of it away. I hold onto it.” It’s possible for us to be like that.

I was in the ministry, well, you know I was in the ministry and so I know the attitude that we Christians can often have. We can often take the attitude, “Well, I’ve been called to the Lord to this work and this is a good work, a godly work, and it’s for his sake and for his glory, and I’m already giving my whole life to it, and so really that’s my giving taken care of. I mean, my whole life is given to God. I mean, I work here in businesses that are for his glory. I live together with other people in a house that is lived in his presence so I’m giving everything to him. So any little bit of money that I get as an allowance, or a salary, or wages well, surely that is my own to do what I want with.” There is hell. There is hell. There’s hell. That’s hell right in the middle of heaven. That’s it. That’s it.

Why I feel it so strongly is maybe you say because I feel everything strongly, but because I know that spirit so well, I know that attitude so well because I was brought up in that kind of Christian dedication. It was very noble in many ways but at its heart was a self pity, a preoccupation with self, at its heart was a lack of faith in God. That was it, a lack of faith in God. I can’t remember what we all get, but I count up my 100 Pounds, or my 200 Pounds, whatever it is, I count up my money that I get each money and I carefully put it out. You know how I joke I say, “When my wife and I fell in love I had 100 Pounds saved and that 100 Pounds went like that in a matter of six months.” And that was my little dried up heart. And I was regarded as one of the conscientious members of the seminary.

But I see it now it was a little dried up heart that lived as if it was going to virtuously make do with the little that God had given me. In other words, it was basically an attitude of unbelief, an attitude of atheism. A feeling that, “Well, we Christians we’re here to do a great work for God and we don’t have many resources. We don’t have as many resources as those miserable old sinners out there who get out and make a mint and make a fortune. We virtuously do on this little bit that this Father of ours gives us and now we have to make that eek out.” While George Mueller is sending gifts to Hudson Taylor and he’s sitting down at a table in his own orphanages with 100 children around him and no food until somebody knocks at the door. So of course it’s obvious, God’s children are men and woman who have God’s generous heart.

And the reason they have God’s generous heart is not because they say they ought to have but because

they are in Jesus and Jesus’ heart rises inside them and Jesus’ heart says, “Give, give and it will be given unto you.” And if it’s not given unto you give anyway because God knows you have given and he will watch over you, and he will either give you grace to do without or he will provide for you. But be generous; give as he has given to you. And then that affects everything, it affects everything.

It affects our holidays, it affects the way we deal with each other, it affects our readiness to give whether we have it or not, to give because that’s realty. That is reality. We are a miserable crowd. If you look over all the things you’ve done in your life and I look over all the things I have done, and we look over all the things that we have had and we’ve been given, we could not have foreseen it, we could not have brought it about. We’re amazed at how God has provided for us, how we’ve had many things that we never dreamed we’d have. So we know fine well that it is God’s goodness that has given us everything. It is not our own cleverness.

Many of our own ideas have not worked out right. Many of the things we thought would make us money, they haven’t made us money. But he has in fact, arranged our circumstances so that here we are today with all that we need. And so that’s reality and what Jesus says today is, “Have my mind inside you. Let my mind work its way out through you, don’t let that old worldly mind,” yes worldly, “That old worldly mind of religion take over. That old miserly religious mind of the world that says, ‘Now listen you’ve already made a big enough sacrifice by giving your life to Jesus now you don’t need to continue to give the little that you get.’” Rather Jesus says, “I’m here on the cross and I’ve been given everything, everything. I’ve been given everything.” As the blood flows you know, “I’ve been given everything and I give everything to you because I need nothing because my Father has given me all I need.” That’s it.

So I think that’s what Jesus wants of us. Jesus wants that of us in our home life together, in our holidays, in our business, we’re to give, give little things, give little things to each other not spoil it all by saying, “Well, look we all have equally little or we all have equally much,” or, “That other person has more of me than I have in this respect.” No, if Jesus’ heart moves within you, give, give. Even if the other person is far better off than you in some ways. If Jesus’ heart moves in you, give because that’s his heart and that’s the heart of God and that’s what brings joy and delight to him. And that’s what keeps us clear of this old miserable legalistic we call it evangelical but it’s not evangelical.

“Evangelion” in Greek is good news, good news. “Eu-aggelion” is messenger, news, “eu” as well, somebody who has good news for other people. Let us be truly evangelical. Let us let Jesus’ generosity show through us so that every time anybody comes into the Garden Café they sense a generosity not just because our portions are good portions because that doesn’t cost you or me anything it just costs the business, but because they are being dealt with by people whose hearts flow with generosity and who have a generous spirit in their own everyday lives. Let us ourselves begin to enjoy all the liberty and joy of generosity. Sometimes I think we miss it. Sometimes I think we miss it.

Sometimes I think you get too uptight. Funny, me a little miserable Belfast boy saying that, but sometimes I think you get too uptight. You cut it too fine you know. “Well, I have this amount for this, this amount for this, this amount for this.” Well, it’s good to be organized but if it organizes generosity and the free spirit of Jesus spontaneous love out of you what good is it? It seems to me a lot of the joy is in going out for ice cream and you pay for it, you know. And you don’t know where it’s going to come from but you pay for it. And then of course the next time

somebody else sees that and they say, “Oh, we’ll pay for it.”

So there is a place for saying, “Oh, now we all ought to divide up.” There is a place for that but that should be almost the exception. And the norm is meant to be Jesus giving freely and then the world will stand and stare because it will see a generosity beyond even its generosity. And it’s quite interesting if you look around, I don’t know how many of you who have studied investments have seen that, but it’s remarkable how many secular businessmen show immense faith. They put thousands, millions of dollars into things and they have no guarantee that it will come back but they somehow feel it will go, it will work. And it’s amazing how many secular businesses show a generosity, just a free generosity that actually it’s very hard to trace a market purpose in it and yet they do it. And actually that’s what God prospers. God prospers his son’s heart wherever that heart is expressed. Let us pray.