Sowing Generously With Joy
SOWING GENEROUSLY WITH JOY
Sermon By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / March 31, 2019
Last year Trudy Wood gave me a brand-spanking new Platinum edition of Scrabble.
It came with a turn table and scoreboard gilded with an attractive metalic look and several other fancy trimmings.
The game was still wrapped in plastic - - it had never been opened.
It belonged to Trudy's mother, Katie, and Trudy was cleaning out, downsizing, so she gave it to me.
I'm assuming that Trudy found joy in giving away this splendid gift.
She experienced what Jesus described when He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
This past January, since I already had a nice scrabble game set (special edition - - although not “platinum”),
I decided to re-gift what Trudy gave me to John Wallie, an avid scrabbler, who plays in official Scrabble Tournaments.
John and I get together every once in while to play. He uses me to hone his skills, often taking me to the woodshed.
I invited John to come to one of our church winter-time game nights.
I brought Trudy's mom's platinum edition. John's eyes lit up. We unwrapped it and set it all up.
When we came to the end of the game night, I smiled at him and told him not to forget
to take home his new game board. He grinned widely and said thanks several times.
It gave me joy to give this beautiful gift to John.
I, too, found out first-hand what Jesus meant: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
My brother-in-law Mark, who learned to sew in the Marines as a parachute rigger,
recently made a denim coaster for Alice Jean Stone. It took him hours to make it, from start to finish.
Alice Jean, who loves to sew, was delighted to receive it.
In giving, Mark's heart was warmed with joy realizing: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Not too long ago, our ladies did some cleaning here at the church building - - under the sanctuary back table.
We had a bunch of hand-made puppets that had been made by Alice Jean Stone and given to our L2L group.
Our ladies decided that it was time to put these puppets up for adoption.
Alice Jean had a cousin who wanted to use them in her church.
We took them to Antonine Village to give them to Alice Jean to forward on to her cousin.
To make a long story short, the Nuns adopted them!
Alice Jean has now tasted two times over: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Our women's sewing group is sowing threads of grace. They are joyfully giving quilts to children's
hospitals and men's homeless shelters. They, too, have tasted first-hand: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
There's another inter-related old expression that has come down to us over the years: you reap what you sow.
If I asked, with whom did this phrase originate?, some might be quick to declare it a “Paulism” (one of Paul's sayings).
We read in Gal.6:7f, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
Paul adds - - if we sow to the flesh we will reap corruption; if we sow to the Spirit we will reap eternal life.
We also read of this concept in 2Cor.9:6f - - Now this I say,
he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.
Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion;
FOR GOD LOVES A CHEERFUL GIVER (our English word, “cheerful”, is the Greek word hilaros). And God is able to
make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance
for every good deed...He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed
for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality...
Let me make two brief observations about what I have said thus far.
One - - there are dual sides to this principle.
If you do not sow/share, you will not be blessed by God.
If you do share, you will be enriched and blessed by God.
Secondly - - this idea of “reaping what we sow”, although used by Paul, was not original with Paul.
It was however, a phrase rooted in the Old Testament sacred Scriptures which Paul knew and loved so well.
In the Torah, we encounter these words in Deut.15:7ff - -
If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which
the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your
poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient
for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware, lest there is a base thought in your heart, saying,
'The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,' and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother,
and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a SIN in you.
You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because
FOR THIS THING THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL BLESS YOU IN ALL YOUR WORK AND YOUR UNDERTAKINGS.
The Old Testament wisdom literature echoes this teaching from the law of Moses.
We re-visit it in both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes - -
Prov.11:24-25 / There is one who scatters (sows), yet increases all the more,
and there is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want.
The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.
Prov.19:17 / He who is gracious to the poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his good deeds.
Prov.22:9 / He who is generous will be blessed.
Prov.28:27 / He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.
Eccl.11:1 / cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days.
The image here is thought to be that of merchant ships loaded with cargo sailing off to foreign ports with a hope
and expectation of returning home at some future time laden with gifts given in exchange for the cargo delivered.
Eccl.11:2, which is connected with vs.1, is a Hebraic way of saying, “don't put all your eggs in one basket”.
JESUS ALSO TAUGHT THIS GIVING PRECEPT: you reap what you sow.
In Acts 20:35 we read of Paul's farewell words to the elders of the church at Ephesus - -
you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He himself said,
IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.
Many scholars argue that in the years following Jesus' ascension back to heaven,
a collection of many of the sayings of Jesus came to be quickly assembled - - the logion (a collection of logos).
While we cannot find the precise quote found in Acts 20:35 - - it is more blessed to give than to receive
- - any where in the Gospels, we can find it in other passages that reflect this same spirit.
In Mt.10:8, Jesus sent out His disciples on a limited commission saying to them: Heal the sick,
raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you have received, freely give.
The twelve apostles did not always have money per se. Lk.10:4 notes that Jesus directed
them: carry no purse, no bag.... But what they did have they were told to share.
Acts 3:6 tells of a crippled beggar who petitioned Peter & John for alms. Peter said to him,
I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene - - walk!
In this instance this ability to walk (after being crippled for 40 years (Acts 4:22), was far greater than a bundle of cash.
This ancient promise given by God (that which we see in the Torah and in the OT Wisdom literature)
is reiterated by Jesus in His sermon on the mount found in Lk.6.
This promise of reaping what we sow is far-reaching.
It includes money, but it is not at all restricted to money.
Lk.6:27f / love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you...
If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?...
Lk.6:36 / Be merciful … and do not judge or condemn. Pardon and you will be pardoned.
Lk.6:38 / Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,
they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
We don't just give to those we love.
Neither do we restrict our giving to those we like.
Paul admonishes in Rom.12:20 / if you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink.
We cannot speak of Job-Robbers without discussing the sin of refusing to give.
God longs for His children to be GIVERS and not takers.
And in being givers, God instructs us to be GENEROUS and not stingy.
Giving of our funds (our money) is important, but giving reaches well beyond monetary gifts.
It extends to both WORDS and DEEDS.
Sometimes spoken words of encouragement are marvelous gifts - - cherished by those receiving them.
Many of our deeds, our acts of kindness, are far greater than anything money could buy.
Finally, last but certainly not least, our giving must be done begrudgingly,
but rather GLADLY and CHEERFULLY.
When we give willingly, the irony is that we will benefit far more than the recipients of our gifts.
We will come to know exactly what Jesus meant when he promised:
IT IS MORE BLESSED TO GIVE THAN TO RECEIVE.