Predecessors of Plenty: Our Practice 2 Corinthians 9: 7-8, 11-15

Wanting’ is what ‘having’ wants to recover. When we have what we want, we miss wanting, which fueled our need to have.  It’s an endless cycle called buyer’s remorse, which happens after we purchase something we thought we wanted and realize what we gave to have it.  Happiness can be equally elusive when it is seeks only the collection of goods or success.

There’s no such thing as giver’s remorse.  A generous spirit keeps on giving; both to the receiver and the giver.  The key to happiness isn’t what we receive or achieve, but in what we give.  Jed Clampett seems to know this is true.   Click here to see Jed’s way of understanding how generosity is never exhausted.

God is generous by nature and shows it by showering us with grace and bountiful goodness.  God wants us to know there is always plenty.  There’s not a scintilla of stinginess in God.  Holding, hoarding, possessing, and protecting aren’t in the divine nature.  Jesus entered the world acting on behalf of his generous Father.  He didn’t arrive and say, “Whoa!  We’ve got lots of undeserving sinners here.  We have to be careful in doling out divine favors.”  Jesus, like the Father, gives and gives and gives—loving the world to death in order to love it to life.  That is the nature and character of God.

The best practices of children of God stamped with the image of God are to reflect God’s image by demonstrating the generosity of God’s character.  We will behave in this way if we’re persuaded there is plenty.  The eulogy test is a good test: “What will my practices cause people to say at my funeral?”  Will they say, “He was so careful; sparing little, but wise in saving”.  Or, might they say, “She never hesitated to give anything she had for the well-being of others.”  There will never be enough if our lives are about the collection of material goods and the pursuit of successful experiences.  There will always be plenty if our lives are marked by generous giving that reflects the nature of God into the world.

Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians to practice generosity toward famine-stricken sisters and brothers in the Jerusalem is framed within the context there is plenty.  Paul, like all predecessors of plenty, is convinced God is generous; he urges others to exercise generosity. Verse 8 says, God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  The verse doesn’t say we will have more than enough; turning the generosity of God into a get rich scheme by invoking the name of God.  It says we will have enough of everything, so we can be generous as God is to us.  Predecessors of plenty celebrate the abundance of God’s generous nature in providing all they need by willingly offer generous gifts.

We don’t have to have lots of money; thinking if we had Jerry Jones money we would be generous.  Eugene Cho lives in Seattle with his wife and three children.  He says his family is middle class with privilege that many do not have.  He has always been aware of disparity in the world.  It was traveling and seeing the faces and hearing the stories behind the numbers that his family made a decision to start One Day’s Wages.

This is a day of deciding about what are going to be our practices regarding the plenty in our life.  Our ability to pledge generously is directly linked to our self-assessment of our blessings.  I want to suggest developing three practices that can breed an attitude of plenty.  These are helpful even if we are not ready to pledge this morning.  If we intentionally fixate ourselves on these habits for the next ninety days our awareness of blessings of plenty would significantly grow.

1. First practice is to offer one gesture of generosity a day.  It’s not about money; it’s about spirit.  Each day look for ways to give compliments, write notes of thanks, or offer aid unexpectedly to someone.  These practices create habits of giving.  Kindness chips away at the myth of scarcity, which keeps us thinking there’s only so much of any or everything to go around.  There are always occasions to share with another.  Every time we build someone up, we grow taller.  Allow practices of small signs of love cultivate a greater generosity in our lives.

2. Second practice is to offer one monetary gift a day.  Eventually it is about the money.  Be mindful to avoid the pitfall of the mindless no, which misses chances to say a generous yes with a daily gift.  Imagine what would change if for the next ninety days if we committed to the practice of being monetarily generous once a day with the waiter at restaurant, the homeless man standing on the corner, the school kid selling candy, or the extra offering being received.  The reason we pass the plate is to provide a weekly opportunity to practice saying yes toward becoming a more generous person who reflects the image of a generous God into the world.

3. Third practice is to develop a plan to offer yearly generous gifts.  We spend time and emotional energy planning our spending, saving, debt management, and retirement funds throughout each year.  How much time do we spend dreaming and scheming about giving during the course of the year?  When we take the step of making it our daily practice to offer generous gifts, we have taken big steps toward reflecting the nature of a generous God.  Eventually we are going to need a broader generosity plan.  The best plan is God’s tithing plan.  I encourage you to make a plan this year to tithe or step toward the tithe in 2012.  Some of you who have made plan to go beyond the tithe, because 10% did not satisfy your longing to give.  A generosity plan happens because people choose to believe there will always be enough because they trust in the generous hand of God.

Predecessors of plenty did not just wake one day as generous people.  They made an intentional decision to trust in the hand of a generous God; igniting plans to practice generous giving.  Over the years, they adopted practices of humbly offering gifts to benefit of others.

This church was built by people whose names we might not ever know; but helped this place reach beyond their dreams because of their practices of generosity.  The fact only a few of us know their names is fine with these generous saints.  They did not seek recognition, influence, or expecting anything in return.  They did not give to feed their need to be someone.  They simply relished in the joy of giving because they sensed they were shining the light of God into a dark world;.  The more of us at First United Methodist who practice generosity that looks like God’s generous ways; the better we will reflect God’s image into our neighborhood and world.

I am learning some lessons around the dinner table that are helping me learn at the altar table.  Terri and I have started sharing an entrée when we go to eat.  This has been a small test of plenty.  The other night when we ordered a single entrée and salad I was worried if it would be enough.  It was more than enough.  The less anxious I am about plenty in my life, the more likely I am going to be able to practice generosity in my life.

We been bred to be generous since we are made in the image of a generous God.  It also takes good grooming to develop the life of plentiful living by practicing habits of generosity so we might better reflect the image of a generous God into our world.  We become more like the child God fashioned when our practices of generosity meets real need.  Nothing will make you happier in life than to become the generous person God created.

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