Good News + Good Deeds = Radical Results
Why give? Generosity is in your DNA. Just look at your Father!
One of the most powerful questions a person can ask is why? Some why questions are serious. Why is there evil and suffering in the world? Some are funny and others leave you scratching your head. Let me give you a few examples: Why are builders afraid to have a 13th floor but book publishers aren't afraid to have a Chapter 11? Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator with hopes that something new magically appeared? Why do people never say "it's only a game" when they're winning? Why do people say "heads up" when they really want you to duck? Why do we press the start button to turn off the computer? Why is there a disclaimer on the Allstate Auto Insurance commercial saying, "Not available in all states"? Why do people think that swaying their arm back and forth would change the direction of a bowling ball?[i] Here’s one more “why” question. Why give? Honestly, why should I give in this world? Why should I be generous? The Apostle Paul has the answer. Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 5. I have two favors this morning. Fill out your yellow communication card and raise your hand if you do not have a Bible. Who needs a Bible this morning? Here’s a solid “why” question this morning? Why do I need to read the Bible? If you want to see God - look at Jesus. If you want to see Jesus - read his word! Let’s see what Paul has to say about both God and his son - locate Ephesians 5: 1&2. (Read)
Paul immediately answers our “why give” question. We give because God gave. Don’t believe it? It’s what God does for his “dearly loved children.” I have almost finished with a book right now called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Dr. Meg Meeker. I always assumed Dr. Meeker believed in God but wasn’t sure until I read this. …God created us and wants each and every one of us. Compared to God, who made us from dust, we might feel utterly insignificant. BUT (my favorite word in the Bible) God MADE us…[ii]
Do you believe that? That God made you. Moses said it this way in Genesis 2:7: the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. A few weeks ago my family and I went to the Columbus Museum of Art! Truth is – my kids didn’t like it as much as Tricia and I did. What we didn’t know was that R. Crumb’s The Bible Illuminated-The Book of Genesis was on display. It will remain on display until January 16. Crumb spent five years illustrating the entire book of Genesis and may I emphasize the word “illustrated.” I thought what he did was amazing. Here are just a few of his illustrations. One of my favorites is when God shoves his hands into the soil and lifts Adam out of the ground. There are two answers as to how human beings came to live on this earth. Either we were fearfully & wonderfully made or we are the product of random chance. Who influences you? Charles Darwin (1809-1882) influenced many. So has Dr. Jonathan Sarfati and this man – the Apostle Paul. Paul said this in Acts 17:24: "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
Paul was convinced that HE and WE were indeed created by God. So Paul reasons - since we’ve been created by God let’s imitate him! Imitate comes from this word ("mimetes") and it’s where we get the English word “mimic.” A mimic “copies specific characteristics of another person.”[iii] Now I totally agree with Paul – let’s imitate God. My only question is which characteristic? I wish he was referring to God’s nature – I like the thought of imitating God’s strength – but Greg Almighty is not going to play. So again – which characteristics? Did you notice the first word of Ephesians 5:1? The word “BE.” Tell me the first word in verse 32 of chapter 4. Another “Be.” Now verses 25-31 clearly go together. They present warnings – commands saying things like – “do not, get rid of, and put off.” But not verse 32. Verse 32 is literally be like God. And how would we describe God? Paul says use one word. Generous. Let’s read again verse 32. God is generous in his kindness, generous in his compassion and generous when it comes to forgiving. So let’s answer our “why give” question! Why should I give? Give because God gives. He’s generous and since we’ve been made in his image we ought to be generous too! Have you ever heard of the 93 dollar club? It all started at a Trader Joe's store in Menlo Park, California, a year ago this past summer. A woman named Jenni Ware was standing at a checkout counter, unable to find her wallet. Carolee Hazard saw that Ware wasn't going to be able to pay the bill, so she offered up the $207 that Ware needed to buy the items in her cart.
The next day, Hazard received a thank-you card and a check for $300 in the mail. In the card's note, Ware suggested that Hazard use the extra $93 to get a massage. But Hazard didn't want a massage. She felt she needed to do something else with the money. Unable to come up with any good ideas, she turned to her Facebook friends, asking them what she should do with the extra cash. One of her friends suggested she give the money to the Second Harvest Food Bank, an organization whose mission is "to help feed hungry people by picking up and preparing excess fresh food and delivering it daily to social service agencies in Toronto." Hazard liked the idea, so she matched the $93 with her own money and sent in a check to the Second Harvest Bank for $186.
But the giving didn't stop there. After more and more people heard about Carolee Hazard's gift, the 93 Dollar Club was born on Facebook. This grassroots movement encourages people to give to the Second Harvest Food Bank. Just for fun, folks can $93 dollars or even $0.93. And here’s the kicker: between 2009 and 2010, one simple act of kindness has led others to give more than $100,000 to help combat hunger.[iv]
Now I realize that story is both inspiring and frustrating. I’m inspired to give my money, because I have some. I’m frustrated because I don’t have any money to give. I can’t give 207 cents let alone $207. Paul shows us in verse 32 of Ephesians 4 that generosity is not limited to just money! Here’s yet another football coach who chose to be unbelievably generous. (CLIP[v]) Friends, it’s now time we move to the chalkboard for our continuing lesson on generosity. Last week we had two bags of groceries. Did you know this church gave 64 bags of food to WARM? Today we have backpacks. One back pack + another back pack equals the love of God. Good News + Good Deeds = Radical Results
These back packs make up what we call Friday Fare. Many school children are part of the free or reduced lunch program. This means they eat during the week, but often go hungry during the weekend. Friday Fare meets that need. Food to take home during the weekend. WCC just added another school to Friday Fare - Cherrington Elementary. We contacted the principal, Mr. Heck to see if there was anything more the school needed— additional backpacks, other supplies, or volunteers. His response was, “all of the above”. They are now actually inviting us to help. The school has a program affiliated with Big Brothers, Big Sisters on Wednesdays at 1:00. Over 50 volunteers from a local company routinely volunteer at the school—but it still doesn’t meet the need. Mr. Heck mentioned one third grader specifically that needs help. He needs an adult to help this child. Would you be willing to be that person? Would you be willing to be Jesus to that person? Not everybody can do Wednesdays specifically. Other days can work. Would you be willing to give a couple of hours a week to help a child learn basic math and reading skills?
I have cards on two separate tables – just give us your name, cell # and email and we’ll put you in touch with Cherrington’s guidance counselor. Generosity is not limited to money only. It could be your time or a simple choice of words. Who needs a little kindness or a dose of compassion in your life? Mother Teresa said, “It’s easier to show compassion to a poor person miles away than it is to a family member sitting across the room.” Who needs a kind word or an act of compassion?
One of the extras I appreciated about R. Crumb’s The Bible Illuminated at the Columbus Museum of Art was the Post-It Note sections at the end of the display. Questions were posted on a display board to give people opportunities to express their thoughts. Here was one question! How would you describe these important figures from the book of Genesis? Adam & Eve, Noah, Sarah, Rebekah and Jacob. Here are some of the results: “She’s trying to figure out what to do with her power” “He’s lying, he ate it!” “Blessed” “Product of her time” “Oppressive to women” “Clueless” “Fake or “Fictional.”
I don’t believe for a moment that Adam & Eve, Noah, Sarah, Rebekah and Jacob are fictional like Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker. The Bible is made up of real people, real places and real events and since none of us were there at the time God decided to give us a historical record. I can’t prove to you that they existed except that they are recorded in God’s word and I trust the reliability of the Bible. But that alone is not enough. Why give/why be generous? Because God is generous. Because it’s in your DNA! When you give you imitate God. When you forgive people will say, “What’s up with that?” Maybe God isn’t fake, phony or fictitious.
The San Francisco Giants won the 2010 World Series. One of the teams they had to beat was the Atlanta Braves. Does the name Brooks Conrad ring a bell? Brooks plays 2nd base for the Braves and he committed three errors in one game – one was in the ninth inning – the ball went right through his legs which eventually scored the winning run. John Fischer wrote, “I noticed, as the manager brought in a new pitcher, that the rest of the infield gathered at the mound, but not Conrad. He was standing out at second, alone in his misery. It wasn't that his teammates shunned him - it doesn't take an invitation to come to the mound - but what seemed clear was that he couldn't face them knowing he had let them down.”[vi] Brooks said, "Once again, I feel like I let everyone down. I just feel terrible. It's a whole lot to swallow, but I'll try my best to get over it. It's probably not something I'll get over for a long time, if ever. ... I wish I could just dig a hole and go sleep in there."[vii]
Who ought to be the most generous people in the world? People who imitate God! Why give? Because God gave. Because miracles happen when we do. Why give? Because it takes people from right field and brings them back into the huddle!
[ii] Meg Meeker, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Kindle Edition/1181-84
[iii] John MacArthur, Ephesians, 194