READINGS: Deuteronomy 8: 7-18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 12:16-30
Have you given anyone a gift recently? I wonder what the occasion was. Perhaps a birthday, Christmas, or the celebration of a new life – the birth of a baby. Perhaps a grandchild?
Think about the gifts you have received in the past year.
- Do you remember who gave them to you?
- Did you remember to thank them?
- Do you think about them when you use that gift?
The overwhelming idea in the passage from the Old Testament today is a warning that we should not forget the gifts God gives us – the blessings he bestowed – the things he has done. And I would add the prayers he has answered.
Over the years I have had amazing conversations with people who have really considered believing in God – or have prayed to him (when they usually didn’t) – or have even come along to church for a while in a crisis. Who contact me in emergencies for spiritual help and prayer – and when things are going well they are suspiciously silent. We pray for people who have needs – are unemployed or unwell – their prayers are answered and we don’t see them again for a long time.
Deuteronomy 8 reminds us of this amazing gift of life and creation (whether it’s the land promised to Israel or this beautiful country we enjoy) – that we should not forget and become proud about our achievements (v14) – and it also says that he gives us the ability to produce wealth! (v18).
It’s that old attitude of gratitude. We often realise too late when people are dead and gone what a blessing they were. And so too many other things we enjoy.
- DON’T FORGET THE LORD! This is the first point today. This generous God – we should not neglect to speak of his kindness and grace, and to praise him constantly for his gifts. Which leads to the second point worth remembering today:
2. GENEROUSITY IS CONTAGEOUS
The reading from Corinthians picks up the harvest theme from a different angle.
Again it is God who “supplies seed to the sower and bread for food” (2 Corinthians 9:10).
The generosity of spirit in both practical and spiritual things – with cheerfulness – is the natural outflow of knowing we are blessed to be a blessing.
And so Paul says to the church in Corinth (in the context of their giving):
2Co 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2Co 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
We are not always known to be cheerful givers. The offering time in many churches is not noted for excessive happiness and hilarity!
Paul was dependent upon peoples’ gifts to keep the work going – so that the gospel could reach all the places he travelled to on his missionary journeys. He says:
2Co 9:10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 2Co 9:11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2Co 9:12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. (As an aside we need to thank God regularly for those who serve with us here).
God has blessed us – we bless others and give to the work of the gospel as part of our thanksgiving and worship.
The riches we receive are not physical here. This is not a prosperity business – giving to be blessed – even though we are told we will be blessed!
We give to those in need to glorify God! We need to be generous kids of a generous Father. Generosity is contagious. Like love – its catchy!
And now to the third point today:
- SELFISHNESS IS RISKY AT BEST – FOOLISH AT LEAST
The gospel reading is a stark reminder of the power of sin – which focusses on me mine, what I will do for myself. It comes through clearly in the words of the barn man:
Luk 12:17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Luk 12:18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. Luk 12:19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ Luk 12:20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ Luk 12:21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”
What is this guy really after? A nest egg and early retirement? God calls him a fool.
What matters when the plug is pulled and we are gone from all this stuff in a flash?
There’s nothing wrong with providing for oneself and family. But this man is totally obsessed with himself. The context is greed. Look at the preceding verses Luke 12:13-15:
Luk 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Luk 12:14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Luk 12:15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
What could he have done?
Probably being content with what he had would be a start. Paul says this on the matter:
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Ti 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1Ti 6:8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 1Ti 6:9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 1Ti 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Following on from this warning is our last point:
4. TRUST HIM WHETHER IN WANT OR WELL PROVIDED FOR (aka DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY?)
The gospel passage today ends with that wonderful reminder about God the provider:
Luk 12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Luk 12:23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Luk 12:24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Luk 12:25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Luk 12:26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luk 12:27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. Luk 12:28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! Luk 12:29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. Luk 12:30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
He ends with this:
Luk 12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luk 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
Worry is an unprofitable emotion indeed. Remember last week how I said we have to fill our minds with scripture to offset all the other stuff we are fed.
My prescription for you today: Read this passage at least once a week. It reminds us that we are more valuable than the birds who are provided for. He will take care of us!
- Guard your heart – that insidious love of money and stuff can destroy you.
- Seek his Kingdom, little flock. He has been pleased to give us the kingdom! This means not storing up for heaven as a kind of investment, but living for different lasting values and priorities now.
To recap we should work on:
- Not forgetting the Lord – being thankful!
- Being like Him – generous.
- Living lives in a mode opposite to greed and selfishness.
- Trusting Him – he is our provider. The Kingdom kids have the King’s kindness to depend upon! Remember Luke 12:30 “Your Father knows that you need them”.
May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth – as it is in heaven.
Reading: Matthew 9:32-38
I was intrigued a while back by a conversation I heard – when a member of our local church here at BBP spoke about “strangers” coming to church on a Sunday – how they didn’t know these strangers.
We can be a bit clubby sometimes.
Years ago – in 1996 – I was privileged to go to Argentina for an international conference run by “Harvest Evangelism”.
There was a revival going on the cities of Argentina at that time – through church unity and cooperation and intense prayer and intercession, local churches were getting together to reach every street in their towns with a prayer cell – and connecting with their neighbours in mission.
I recall the main speaker – the head of Harvest Evangelism – speak on this text from Matthew 9.
It’s the gospel reading for today and it follows on quite well from Sunday – where we read the Luke account of this business of the harvest being great and the workers few.
Ed Silvoso said this – or words to this effect: When you are in a crowd – say in a shopping centre – and you see the masses or encounter their shopping trolleys – or get stuck behind them when you are in a hurry and they seem to have all day – what do you feel?
Are you like Jesus?
The key verse is of course this one:
Mat 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Σπλαγχνίζομαι – splagchnizomai is the word. It’s one of the richest Greek words in the Bible. Literally it is something like a bowel movement – oops. That sounds wrong. Thayer’s Greek dictionary explains it like this:
1) to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)’
One 18th century commentator put it like this:
(John Gill) … he was moved with compassion on them: his bowels yearned for them, he was touched with a feeling of their infirmities, as the merciful high priest, the good shepherd, and faithful prophet; being heartily concerned for the souls of men, their comfort here, and everlasting happiness hereafter…
It’s about something that churns inside of you.
Compassion is the key. Is that the feeling you have? What Jesus felt?
It is such an interesting verse – in fact all the words are rich – so rich that the various translations sound like this:
(AOV) En toe Hy die skare sien, het Hy innig jammer gevoel vir hulle, omdat hulle moeg en uitgeput was, soos skape wat geen herder het nie.
(ESV) When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
(MSG) When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.
(KJV) But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Jesus is moved by the masses. We sometimes avoid them – as the world is so different from what we grew up with.
The best sense of this that I have experienced was not at a shopping centre – but going with the crowds to watch the Springboks play the All Blacks one night at the Cake tin – the Westpac stadium in Wellington. They came in their droves – and it was so gloomy. OK they were all wearing black – but there were thousands. Streaming towards the stadium – emerging out of the station, off buses, or along the sidewalks. I had a real sense that day – that this is what Jesus is interested in. All those people. Okay that particular group was a bit obsessed with the religion of rugby, so we have to be especially compassionate towards them.
The heart of Jesus is for those who are harassed and helpless.
Back to Matthew 9:37 – Jesus he tells them to pray to the Lord of the harvest:
Mat 9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Mat 9:38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
In Mark we read this:
Mar 6:34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
And in that passage he goes on to feed them – with five loaves and two fish.
Dear friends – there is work to be done.
It begins with compassion. And compassion goes together with love. Paul said this of his passion to reach people in his first letter to the Corinthians:
1Co_9:16 Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! And then in 2 Corinthians he says this: 2Co 5:14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
Of course that verse precedes the one we have mentioned on a couple of Sundays: 2 Corinthians 5:17
2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
May you and I find a new compassion for the masses. This city is a reflection of the world we live in. All shapes, sizes, ethnicities (nations literally) and many, many people who are so different from us.
Yet they are the same us us. Without Christ the good shepherd – harassed and helpless, confused and aimless, in short – LOST.
We are called to be part of this plan to introduce them to Jesus the good shepherd. Amen.