Generous People and a Generous God (sermon)
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
St Paul has a problem… some Christians are poor and others are rich. Specifically some Christians in Judaea are suffering and in need, and some Christians in Corinth have more than enough. So Paul is running around the churches on a ministry of redistribution.
He is not seeking money for services rendered… in fact he makes the point that he is not a paid minister… he is not raising money for a building project that will benefit the community at Corinth. What he is concerned with is something much more fundamental. He is concerned that Christians love one another and are seen to love one another. How can anyone believe in Jesus if the Christians just talk about love and some are suffering and others have more than enough. We might even go so far as to wonder whether the crisis of distribution raises question about whether the community at Corinth really is part of body of Christ
So this is a stewardship drive, you might say. But Paul is not going around saying… come on folk if you’re a member of this organization pay your fees… He’s not appealing to them as consumers of religion. He’s appealing to them from the complete opposite direction – as followers of Jesus. His message is simple: Generosity lies in the very nature of God, so it is of the essence of the Christian life to be generous people.
But is God generous? Do we really believe it? In a way that’s the place we have to start
What makes you believe that God is generous? Do you say… I have a house over my head, food on my table, a bed to sleep on at night and a family? Do you say God has given me many years of life, therefore God is generous? But what if some people have none of these things and die young? Is God still generous? Can God be generous even if that generosity is poorly distributed
I want to suggest that the answer is yes. I want to suggest that God’s generosity consists in freely (under no obligation, regardless of how good or bad we might be or what rights we might think we have) giving us everything we need to really live.
Here’s the scenario God creates and sustains finely-tuned universe, incredible in its beauty and complexity, a universe in which life evolves on (at least) this planet. A planet on which earthquakes shake and volcanoes erupt and all sorts of accidents happen, and life is fragile, different people live for different lengths of time, no one is the same, no one is owed a certain lifespan (God is generous in creating life and the possibility of life, but life is not equal). The distribution problem is partly a matter of chance, but more fundamentally it is a problem of human selfishness. Humans who have been given all that they need to live, still have a problem actually ‘really living’. We call ourselves human… but in terms of how we are created to live we are really only a shadow of our true selves, partial humanity is our situation… our fears set us against one another. And in that context it really is hard to imagine that God is generous
Paul’s basic starting point for believing that God is generous is not with creation. Paul says (earlier in his letter to Corinth) “We have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”… Paul says you can see that God is generous in the life of Jesus. Paul says (v 9)For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich
What does this mean? How is Jesus rich and then poor? I want to suggest that the God who creates the universe freely also gives us Jesus, a human life that is, for the first time fully human, fully in tune with the life and possibilities of God. This is the very definition of what it is to be rich. And Jesus in living that life, ends up giving that life away, in order that we might be set free from our fears and selfishness and share the life he has. Jesus has his life taken, but only after his own choice of self-impoverishment
Where do we see the generosity of God? We see it as God gives us not just a world, but God’s own life, so we can live not just our own semi-human existence, but share in the life of God.
If this is the definition of generosity: that God gives us all we need to really live… then Jesus is the fullness of God’s generosity. Jesus is the proof of God’s generosity
In answer to my earlier question as to whether God can be generous even if that generosity is poorly distributed… an even stronger yes emerges… because if God is generous in Jesus God is beginning to address the human roots of bad distribution. Part of the generosity of God is that, in Jesus God creates a generous people
Here’s a question: What do you think is the most anti-christian song ever written? (not Imagine by John Lennon)
Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
For sometime in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good
What is it saying… there is no gift in the universe… you get what you deserve…
Faith in Jesus says “No!”. God is generous… and those who really believe can do nothing other than become generous people.
Thanks be to God