Today we are continuing our series on generosity and what it means to be generous people. I think the topic of generosity has gotten a bit of a bad rap through the years. Whether or not that reputation is deserved (I would argue it is in many cases), we cannot ignore the truth that God calls us to be generous people.
And so, we’re going to be wrestling with this issue. Working to uncover some truth, and figure out ways to apply it to our lives as both, Christ followers, and as people who hope to find more balance in your life.
After all, while generosity is absolutely a spiritual principle, it’s one that all people, irregardless of faith, will find helpful and useful in your day-to-day life.
We never have enough time
To have any sort of conversation about time, about giving time, or about being generous with our time, we must first start with the truth that many of use have very little time to give.
This wasn’t supposed to be an issue.
With technology on the rise, and the potential aid it would provide, free time was supposed to increase. At least, that was what the top leaders believed about 50 years ago. One specific leader, giving testimony before a Senate subcommittee in 1967 predicted:
“…by 1985, people could be working just 22 hours a week or 27 weeks a year or could retire at 38.”
The major issue, as it was seen, was by the turn of the 21st century, the biggest issues people would face would be how they would spend all this extra time created by faster machines and increases in technology.
We were optimistic…to put it gently.
We are slaves to a clock.
We dictate our lives by the things demanded of us, the things asked of us, the time taken from us.
According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, the average employed American works a 46-hour work week; 38% of the respondents in their study worked more than 50 hours per week.
That doesn’t include all the extras we put into our lives. We all have things we do after our work lives end. We have ball games, second jobs, families to care for, or musical performances. We have study groups or church events.
Life is like a glass, and the stuff we fill our lives with is like water. Have you ever noticed what happens when you completely fill a glass with water? I mean…completely.
You can fill it, and fill it, and fill it…and eventually, you’ll fill it to the point when you can’t fill it anymore without spilling it, right? That point, is actually more than the glass can actually hold. It’s that amazing point when the water is actually ballooning above the top of the glass.
That glass, if you were to add just another couple drops, would begin to leak down the sides of the glass.
And so, too, is our life. If we were to add just one or two more things, our schedule was spontaneously ignite and fall apart.
It’s with that knowledge that we are diving into this topic today. I know, full well, that this may result in a some fear, some anxiety and possibly some anger.
The rich fool: Luke 12:13-21
The Parable of the Rich Fool
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Background: Jesus the Rabbi
Rabbis, of which Jesus group Jesus belonged, were often asked to interpret or pass down judgement on a particular law or rule regarding ethical matters.
This is what Jesus is confronted about in this text. He has an angry brother who, feeling slighted by his brother in regards to his inheritance.
Jesus turns the problem on its head
If there is anything we know about Jesus, it’s that he has this amazing ability to look past the prepackaged answers and get to the heart of the issues at hand.
The man was hoping Jesus would command his brother to give him the money he feels he is owed. Jesus, however, turns the question back at the man asking the question.
The beauty in this question is that, while Jesus could have made an ethical ruling based on hard evidence.
But Jesus chooses to question motivation. He goes past outward expectations, hard evidence, and visual proof, and chooses to bring to light the heart of a person asking this question…
What are you living for?
He asks it by telling a story.
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
A man who lives for himself
We are taught by our culture that we need to look out for ourselves, aren’t we? We’re taught that our happiness, our goals, our purpose is to look out for #1…me.
In this story, we see a man who has worked hard. Worked hard to store up for himself stuff that will allow him to live the rest of his life easy…without worry or need.
The insinuation in this story is that, he already had enough…he already had what he needed with the old barns…but when he came into another windfall, he tore down what he had, and built even more.
Instead of being generous with his blessings, he hoarded them and kept them for himself.
And so, in this parable, God tells the man who his greed has cost him his life. And he asks, who will get your wealth now? After all, you can’t take it with you when you die!
So, what can we learn from this man? How can we apply this story to our lives?
This story challenges us to take a look at two specific areas of our heart: Motivation, and priorities.
The first is motivation
There is an all-important question, as we work through what it means to be generous, that needs to be asked. Why? Why are you doing the activities you’re doing? What is your reason behind them?
Are you busy? Are you too busy?
Honestly, to be busy is not always a bad thing. To invest your life in things that matter, to invest your heart in things that matter, can lead us to a life of fulfillment and joy. There are people who, by personality alone, hate to sit and do nothing. They would rather be up, working, helping or serving, instead of sitting on the couch watching T.V.
So, we can’t always gauge rightness or wrongness by the amount of time we fill throughout the course of a day.
What can help us begin to gauge our life, and the events that fill it, is the simple question, “Why am I doing these things?”
Are you doing it out of a simple desire to serve?
Are you doing it out of a passion in side of you?
Are you doing it out of fear? Fear of what life will be like without that constant validation of your worth or importance?
Are you doing it out of self-importance? Do you feel like the world will grind to a halt if you stop filling your life with these activities?
The second is our priorities
Everyone is influenced by culture. We’re all carrying around with us the baggage of cultural assumptions, biases, or beliefs. We do our best to see the world objectively, but that is not always possible.
We are, as a people, bombarded with the message to, “Work hard.” We’re told, we live in America, and with this privilege (Which it is a privilege!) we can make as much as we want…we just have to work hard for it.
Now, in many ways, that is true. We are afforded the opportunity to live in a society that allows for innovation, creation, invention, and rewards hard work. That’s to be applauded.
The difficult part, though, is that we’re also taught that money is king! So, if money is king, and if we are to strive to make as much of it as possible, and if society rewards hard work, how will we make more money? Working harder!
There is a simple belief that works its way through every advertisement. It’s the cornerstone on which every commercial or radio spot is built…this truth that we need more. We need to keep up. We need to maintain status.
Now, Napa is filled with nice cars. I don’t know if you guys realize how many there actually are…but I have honestly seen more Ferraris, Tesslas, and Bentlys here in the past 4 months than I have the past 27 years. It’s crazy.
And, as luck always seems to have it, I will pull up to it in my super-sweet 2001 Dodge Caravan! Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my car. It runs great, I am blessed to have that reliable form of transportation. But, culturally, I am taught to be unhappy with what I have. I am taught to view my possessions as not enough.
Taught to strive for more. Work harder. Spend time away from my home. Invest in my job- in the hopes that I will one day earn enough for that Tessla, or that Ferrari.
Well, rude awakening…I am in the wrong career for a car like that!
But do you see how easily that works its way in?
And so, you can see, on the flip side, how we begin to prioritize work over God, family, or other relationships? We do it without ever thinking about it. It just creeps into our lives…and before we know it, we are captive to this way of thinking.
And we order our lives, and base our priorities on these beliefs.
So, what is Jesus asking of us?
Jesus is asking us, and challenging us to think about our lives. We need to make account for our time, our energy and the minutes we spend throughout the day.
We need to examine whether or not we are you motivated by the kingdom of God, or the world?
Do we find our mind is consumed by getting more? Or are we consumed with giving away?
Are we dedicated to protecting our family? Our personal health?
We will find that our motivations, our passions, and our obsessions will be what draws your attention, time, and energy.
This isn’t, in and of itself, a bad thing. Go created us to be passionate creatures. We’re designed in unique ways, with unique gifts. Elizabeth Potter talked about this last week. We have ways in which God intends to use us to impact this world. But all good things can be manipulated, twisted and broken.
Our materialistic, self-centered world will take what we’re naturally good at, and tell us that we need to use it only for ourselves. To please ourselves. To make “me” happy.
This can lead to skepticism
Often times, when someone hears the talk about being generous with time, they wait for the bombshell, “now give up stuff you’re doing, in order to give it to us.”
And to be honest, there are volunteer gaps in this church that we have need of filling…and that will only come out of the generosity of people here.
But, I want you to hear what I’m saying to you. This is deeper than just a, “I want you to give this church your time.”
Generosity, and the generous attitude are not optional for the Christ-follower. It’s not something we can pick and choose whether or not we want to follow.
And so, with this sermon, and with this message, I want to challenge with a homework assignment, and with a follow-up question.
First, the homework assignment: In your bulletin, you’ll find a week-long hourly worksheet. Take a few moments at the end of each day this week, and write an estimate of how you spent your time. It doesn’t have to be down to the minute. All I want you to see is the large chunk of time spent.
Then, ask yourself: “How are you using your time, and your talents, to impact the world?”
If we want to move forward as a church, and as people dedicating to serving our community, we need to take serious evaluation of how we’re spending our time and our energy.
If you call Living Vine home…
Because, and I want to be very frank here, the vast majority of work done in this church is done by a small percentage of people. And, for there to be success, we need more people to pick up the slack…to share in the load, and find ways to join with the mission of this church!
I hope, by now, you can begin to see the direction we’re going, and I hope that you can begin to buy into what we’re now, and will continue to be about.
If not, come talk to me. I’d love to share in more depth what we need here.
But two ways we’re moving forward is to continue to improve our Children’s Church experience. To create a space that welcomes young families, we need to be intentional about create a place that is safe, and let’s the parents know that we care about their children. We care about their safety. We want the parents to be able to, after entrusting their children to us, come, relax, and feel like their family belongs and matters
But that begins with time. We currently have 1 teacher in Children’s church. We really need two. That means there are possibilities for lots of people. If you’re not comfortable teaching, that’s fine! Come just be a helper. You don’t have to lead a lesson. Maybe you help a child color. Help pass out snacks, or other behind the scenes things.
It wouldn’t be every week. We currently are only having our teachers teach once a month, with every third month off. We don’t want to over work you. We want to be careful with our people’s time.
We will also need, as we’re beginning the process of planning a nursery, two workers in that room, too!
The reality is that the Kids church is an immediate need. We could use more volunteers next week!
And nursery is still in the brainstorming process.
So, where does this leave us?
I have two thoughts for you.
First: If you find that you are completely overwhelmed by your life, your calendar and your schedule. Make it your mission to cut life to a manageable schedule. Find balance in less.
Second: If you find you are able to take on a bit more, if you want to serve our church, I invite you to take the next steps. Talk to me. We can find a way for you to serve that fits your gifts and your passions.