St. Paul quoted Jesus and said,
It is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
It is a short simple sentence but it has so much truth in it. If we always remember this truth, and live accordingly, we will live a blessed life. The secret of a good life is in giving. We should discover that. True happiness comes from the lifestyle of giving. The question is whether we believe it or not. That was how Jesus lived. He came to this world to give. To give it all. To give everything he had, including his life. Jesus emptied himself so that we may have life to the fullest.
In the passage we read today, St. Paul was making a reference to that.
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. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
Generosity was the core message of our Lord Jesus Christ. Generosity characterize Jesus’ life. Generosity is a hallmark of a great person. Generous people are people who love and enjoy giving. They don’t think about benefits that come from giving. They simply enjoy giving. They enjoy giving more than receiving. I will say, it is an acquired taste. When you were younger, you enjoyed receiving, receiving toys, receiving attention, and receiving love. As you get older, you get this acquired taste, the joy of giving. Generosity is possible only when you enjoy giving.
When we enjoy giving, life becomes much more enjoyable. We feel unhappy and dissatisfied when we try to get more. We are made that way. That’s why it is more blessed to give than to receive?
As we start to enjoy giving, we change. We become a bigger person. Our heart expands. When our heart expands, life becomes bigger. We experience the abundance of life.
The size of giving is proportional to the size of your heart, not the size of your wallet. The Macedonian church was poorer than the Corinthian church and yet they were the first ones who responded to Paul’s request to help the Jerusalem church. The Macedonian church knew the joy of giving. They truly experienced God’s grace. Their heart became big. St. Paul wanted to teach the Corinthian church about giving. Paul wanted to encourage them to expand their heart. Because that is the secret of experiencing life’s blessings. The more you expand your heart of giving, the more you will enjoy life’s blessings.
This time I was very pleased to see the way our English-speaking congregation gave generously for the Rose of Sharon project. There were also people who are members of our church but gave through other organizations. One of the doctors gave $20,000. Paul wanted to point out that giving is our spiritual act.
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. (2 Corinthians 8:7)
Our heart can either shrink or expand. But unfortunately, we often live with a wrong assumption: GETTING THE MAXIMUM RESULT WITH THE LEAST SACRIFICE. We call it deal. It sounds like a good wisdom but it is not. If we think of life as a deal, if we think of our relationships as a deal, we become small. We become calculating. In that way, we don’t experience the abundant blessings of God. Let us not be too smart.
That was what the disciples had to learn. When there were 5,000 people to feed, Jesus told the disciples, “you feed them.” The first thing they did was calculating how much money they had. I think that was a natural response. I would have done that too. But the task Jesus asked them to do – there was no answer in our calculation. It was simply impossible. The solution could not come from calculating the cost. By feeding them with five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus showed them that abundance of life is God’s gift. They experienced that the abundance of life is God’s gift. I hope that our life moves towards the direction of our heart being expanded, not shrunk.
The bigger your heart becomes, the bigger your life will become. The more you give, the more you will feel rich and abundant. The stingier you become, the more you feel poor and lacking. When people with a big heart gather together, they bless each other with abundance and they will all experience the abundance of life. But when people with a small heart gather together, there will be conflicts, jealousy, tension, and division.
Greed and Love
Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love. Generosity is the most concrete way of living out our love for others. So for Christians, generosity is not an option. It is something we have to do. When you sell a car, you cannot put tires as an option. In the same way, becoming a Christian, we cannot make generosity as an option. Because it is at the core of our belief. That was what God taught the Israelites too.
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:22)
Don’t be too greedy. Don’t try to take everything for yourselves. Leave some for those who need them. We don’t need to be so petty.
We can be generous because God will take care of our needs. We have nothing to worry about what we shall eat or what we shall wear. God will take care of our needs.
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25, 26)
The more we have faith that God will take care of our needs, the more generous we can be. Let us not be a victim of scarcity. So, generosity is related to our faith. Being generous is proportional to our faith. Generosity comes from the radical faith of leaving our lives in God’s hands. That was the offering of the poor widow. She was the one who needed charity but she had the heart to give.
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’ (Mark 12:42-44)
The widow had the radical faith of leaving her life in God’s hands.
We have the ugliest and darkest side within us and that is our GREED. We have to deal with that. Otherwise, our life will not be happy. From greed, all kinds of ugly things happen. That’s why St. Paul said,
But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
Jesus also said,
No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)
We cannot get rid of greed. Greed will be always there within us. Greed is a root of all kinds of evil. Greed manifests itself most powerfully in our love of money. How do we deal with this greed? Can we get rid of it? I don’t think so. Then what do we do? We may not get rid of it but when we live out a life of generous giving, greed will not be able to act up within us. We may not be able to get rid of our greed but we can diminish the power of greed to control us. The more we try to have, the more we will become a slave to our greed. But when we start enjoying the act of giving, greed loses its controlling power.
There are a lot of benefits of giving. But we don’t think about that. The moment we think about the benefits of giving, its effects disappear. We live a life of giving, simply because it is A RIGHT THING TO DO. There are people who are in worse situations than us. Sharing with them what we have is simply a right thing to do. We also live a life of giving, because we have learned to enjoy giving. It is not a loss. It’s not losing what we have. We are just thankful that we have the opportunity to give. We can also live a life of giving because we trust that God will take care of our basic needs.
I want to tell you briefly about how to give. First, even though you give because you enjoy giving, don’t give only when you feel like it. Make a budget in your life. Set aside a portion of your budget for giving. Plan it.
Secondly, make a discipline of giving. It is a spiritual discipline. Discipline is not something you don’t enjoy. Because you enjoy it, you discipline yourself. Make giving a habit of your life.
Lastly, expand your heart. In other words, increase your giving. Challenge yourself. Have a radical faith in God and challenge yourself to give more abundantly.