Generation of Generosity
2 Corinthians 8:7-8 7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others.
In my home church in South Korea, after Christmas Eve service, kids always gathered and had a lock-in on Christmas Eve. Christmas is not a traditional holiday in Korea so we don’t have to worry about family gathering on the night. It was so much fun. We had all kinds of games all night, ate all kinds of food, snacks, pizza, drink all night. It was so much fun. Every kid so looked forward to it all the year round. One year, after Christmas Eve service, we again had a lock-in at the church basement. My home church building was huge. They had about 1,000 Sunday attendance, so the sanctuary was huge and they had lots of Sunday school rooms. We gathered in the fellowship room and had all kinds of games again. After several hours later of having fun there, we got a little bored and we decided to play the rock-paper-scissors game and the one who loses will go up stairs to the sanctuary alone, the huge place where no lights, the dark place, and go to the altar without turning on the lights, and touch the pulpit and come back. Have you ever been in the sanctuary in our church at midnight without lights? It is spooky and so eerie! And my home church sanctuary was spooky, too. In the midnight, churches are perfect to be the haunted houses. Anyway, we did the rock-paper-scissors and a boy, one year older than me lost the game. He had to go by himself. All of us laughed so hard and got so excited how he is going to mange that. He looked so serious and determined as he left the fellowship room. He left, we waited for him to come back. We waited like 20 min. That doesn’t make sense. It would only take 5 min to touch the pulpit and come back. But he didn’t come back for like 20 min. Something went wrong. So we asked Sunday school teachers who were with us to go upstairs and turned the lights in the sanctuary to see if whether he was still there. We found him! He passed out in the aisle between the pews! You know what? That night someone left the main entrance open by mistake and a drunk sneaked into the church, sleeping in the pew. And the boy was groping around to go to the altar, the drunk sensed the boy approaching, he jumped to his feet. And the boy saw something white sprung up in the dark right in front of him. The boy just passed out and didn’t even scream because he too much freaked out! The boy was like 6 foot high. The boy was real tall, a kind of masculine boy who played basketball and everything. A typical popular boy in high school, you know. Like he used to pretend to be manly usually, but he got freaked out and passed out that night because of the spooky drunk wearing white shirt. That was so funny. Church is important to a lot of us, right? We love our church building, which is beautiful, we love the things that we do in the church like pot lucks, fellowships, mission projects. We are so grateful for our church, right? Here is what I am most grateful for. I am grateful for God’s people. That is what church is all about. Jesus didn’t have in mind “a church building” when he came to establish the church. Did you know that? The first church building didn’t come until like 358 after he was taken up to heaven. It was like over three hundreds years before the first church building came. What did Jesus come to establish? Jesus came to establish “the assembly” Ekklesia, the people that are bound together by unbreakable bond of grace and the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus came to gather together, that is called “the church.” That is who we are. That is who we are. The song that we learn when we were kids is right. “Church is not a building. Church is not a resting place. Church is the people. I am the church. You are the church, and we are the church together. All of God’s people all around the world. Yes, we are the church together. Can we say this together? “We are the church,” Go! I am who I am today, any goodness in my life comes through the grace of God, through the people of God. Think about where all the goodness that you have in your lives come from. I am pretty sure they come from God through the people of God by the grace of God.
When Alexa and I were, I think, both of us were going to middle school, Alexa didn’t study. And I studied everyday. Everyday I came from school, I had some free time and dinner, and sat at my desk and studied until midnight and went to bed. Everyday. I studied so diligently. I was a hard-working student. But Alexa didn’t. I don’t know what she did, but anyway she didn’t study. One day Alexa brought her report card from her midterm and my mom almost had a heart attack seeing her grades. Her school was a big public school, which had about 600 students in one class. And she ranked like 400 something out of 600. In my family, that was a new history. Dady got shocked, mom got shocked, I got shocked. Everyone got shocked except Alexa. She was so okay with that. I still sometimes have hard time figuring out what’s in her mind. But you know what? At the next term, she ranked second out of 600. What? How is that possible? I studied everyday, but I’d never been second out of 600 students. My mom witnessing all this, that me studying everyday, but never reached top ranks and Alexa who all of sudden, so out of blue ranked second out of 600, told Alexa, when I was not there, “I think you are talented. You are smart.” And she added one more comment, “I think Sophia is always working-hard.” Alexa told me this later. I got really hurt. What? That was like my mom thinks I am stupid but work so hard with that slow understanding while Alexa, the genius, gets laid back and does nothing but gets everything she wants!
So you know what? When I came to church, and church people said, “you are talented. You are gifted” I was like “really???” And here is the deal. “You are gifted. Every person. We are gifted!” Let’s say this out loud, “I am gifted.” Go!
Yes we are gifted. What gifts? God is giving us gifts of talent. We are talented.
God is giving you gifts of treasure. God has blessed you with possessions. God has blessed you also with time. God is blessing you with time, talents and treasure.
Jesus is teaching one afternoon and a huge crowd gathered to hear his teaching. Imagine, the huge assembly of people checking out Jesus. Jesus is teaching them, sitting down with the position of Rabbis would take when they are teaching.
And then, in the middle of his message, somebody interrupts Jesus. Here is how the story went down. Luke tells about it.
Jesus is teaching and (slide 1) 13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?”
Do you catch the scene. Do you know what’s happening in there? Jesus is teaching and somebody interrupts. Isn’t that weird interruption? When I was a part time pastor one time, once a month I had to preach to a kindergarten class which was made up of 3-5 years. They are so cute, but they are the hardest to preach to ever in the world! I say one word and here and there kids interrupt me with questions or just complaints about everything. “I want to pee- I want to see mom-.”
One Sunday I was preaching to them with a bagel in my hand to explain something, and the kids sidled up to me to eat the bagel. They were so hungry and bagel was right in front of them. I don’t even remember how to finish the sermon fighting with the kids clinging to me to get the bagel. I am good at handling interruptions. But seems like Jesus is really good at that. That man interrupt Jesus with a weird question. A legal issue. Well actually Jesus had a legal authority this day. So it’s not uncommon. For somebody interrupts him, because among Jewish people, a Rabbi had authority. He can settle legal disputes. It’s not uncommon. But Jesus seemed not interested in being a lawyer or a judge. So he wants to cut to the chase and this man asks a question. Well, he’s got a problem.
Let’s go to the next slide. (slide 2) 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” What’s this guy’s problem? In a word. (Greed). Jesus doesn’t just talk about money greed. He says, “every kind of greed.” This man had greed problem, didn’t he? Here’s the truth. I think you and I do, too. I guess this is part of our sinful nature. All of us have that problem. We’d like to hoard our time, we love to hoard our talents, we like to keep our treasure. I honestly confess that sometimes when I give my tithes to God, I have to take a pause and take a deep breath. I am pastor, you know, but still it sometimes hard for me to trust that God will take care of me when I give God 10 % of my income. But it’s just not about our money. It goes way beyond it, doesn’t it? Sometimes we are too busy, We like fishing, but when it comes to fishing for people for Jesus, we are like no, no. I need to watch Strange Things 2. We are too busy. We like to recreate, but we don’t help anybody else learn how to find the ultimate rest found in Jesus Christ. We like to hoard our time and talents and we like to keep things to ourselves. This is why Jesus uses the word, here for greed, the word, “lust.” It is strong. It is undercurrent, it is undertow. Everyone of us hears a voice in our heads that ‘it’s all about me.’ We hear this, right? Jesus warns against this because he wants to warn his followers and then he wants his followers to grow up in grace! Because he wants us to experience our lives to its absolute fullness. Life, it is intended all along. Joyful life, filled with Holy Spirit. Filled with following the way that Jesus came. So here is the question that we look at today. (slide 3) “How do I move from greed to generosity?” That’s a big shift for me. How can we do this? Here is the first things. To move from greed to generosity, you and I need to,
- Resist Scarcity! To the man who interrupts Jesus, Jesus tells him a story. Here is the story. “16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’
At first glance, he doesn’t look like he has scarcity issue, right? He is rich, he is an entrepreneur, he got success. His only problem is his barn is too small. And he even knows the solution to that problem, a new construction. But, look deeper. Let’s look at this story a little closer. The problem that this guy has is the same problem that I have. He has the wrong life coach, leader, and lord all wrapped up in the one person. You know who the person is guided by? That is himself. This is humorous part. I think this parable is hilarious. Let’s go back to the passage. He says, “What should I do? I don’t have enough rooms for MY crops.” And then he says, “I know. I will tear down MY barns and build bigger ones. (Do you catch how ridiculous this is because he keeps going) Then I’ll have room enough to store all MY wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back, (And here is it gets good) and say to myself, “My friend,” Wow, don’t you love this guy? All of us together, me, myself, and I. He looks in the mirror and saying, “Oh, My friend! wow” The problem that this guy has “I” problem. My mentor for my ordination process said that there is a statement in AA, Alcoholics Anonymous that I found it is spot on because it is so true in my life, too. It says, “If you sponsor yourself, and your sponsor is an idiot.” Who are you listening to in your life? All our mentality of scarcity is because we consult only with ourselves. I do this all the time. The problem we have like this guy is that we are talking to ourselves all the time instead of talking to God. That is why Jesus says, “If you cling to your life, You will lose it, but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” We will find it! That’s why he said that. Stop looking in the mirror and look into God’s eyes. In order to live generously, we need to cultivate abundance! To the guy who asked a legal question, Jesus answers like this. “ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. (Yes, the guy didn’t take this into his consideration.) Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” Today we are celebrating our saints who passed away this year and before. We have lost our very special lady, Rose this year. Well we lost her, but it must be a huge gain to God in heaven. I am pretty sure when Rose got to heaven, God jumped out of the chair where God was sitting on, and hugged her and celebrated all her wonderful commitment for God, generous love for others, and everything. God must have a party for Rose to come back her eternal home with such a huge celebration. Isn’t that wonderful? I am 100% sure that she had stored up things in heaven, not in here. That is why all of us dearly love her and still miss her so much.
In the parable, this guy forgot that this life is short. We’ve got to ask, “what do we want our life to be about?” “What do we want our legacy of life to be all about? This church has been here over 160 years and will continue to be here as a symbol of generosity for others for God’s glory, not for our glory. The reason we have been able to be church like we are now is because all the saints who were the people of generosity have used their talents, their time, their treasure for this church, for this community, for the world, for God’s glory. I pray and hope that all of us get caught in the grace of God so that we can continue to write the miracle of GOd’s generosity through us! God use us. Thanks be to God, Amen!