A sermon and thoughts on Generosity

Two days after my sister sent me the Matthew 6 commentary on generosity and giving that I shared in my last post, I opened up my podcast library on my phone to listen to the latest Tim Keller Sermon and found that it is titled “Blessed Are the Poor.” It so closely relates to the Matthew 6 commentary that I am blown away. Clearly this is something the Lord wants me to meditate on and pray about more–and, of course, DO! Click on the link above to listen to this sermon via Podbay. Keller doesn’t pull any punches, but he ends by drawing our attention back to grace. He reminds us that “generosity” that is based on guilt is simply religion; it’s not founded in the Gospel.

One image from the Matthew 6 commentary that I keep thinking about is the “single eye.” Here’s a quote from that section: Jesus’ illustration about the “single” (NIV good) eye and the evil eye would immediately make sense to his hearers: a “good” eye was literally a healthy eye, but figuratively also an eye that looked on others generously (Sirach 32:8). In the Greek text of the Gospels, Jesus literally calls the eye a “single” eye, which is a wordplay: the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible also uses this word for “single” to translate the Hebrew term for “perfect”-thus “single-minded” devotion to God, with one’s heart set on God alone. An “evil eye,” conversely, was a stingy, jealous or greedy eye; yet it also signifies here a bad eye (Mt 6:23), one that cannot see properly. Jesus uses the “single” eye as a transition to his next point, for the “single” eye is literally undivided, having the whole picture: thus one is not divided between two masters, as the text goes on to explain (v. 24).

mads eye

I’ve posted this picture (shot by my older daughter [the subject is my younger daughter]) before, but I felt it was very appropriate for this post.

I want the generous, single eye Jesus speaks of. I want to see more and more clearly God’s great, incredible, beautiful love for me–until my eye is filled up with Love-Light so that my view of every other person is filtered with Love. This morning I was reminded that this not only applies to those in physical or social need when I realized I was viewing an interaction with a neighbor without a bit of Love in my gaze. There was no generosity in my view of her. I was thinking of her only in relation to myself, of how she had inconvenienced me. God had to remind me that the generosity He calls us to is a way of life that impacts how we see EVERYONE!

This prayer is adapted from the Message version of Matthew 6.

Lord, help us to open our eyes wide in wonder at your amazing love. Help us to believe and trust that you love us more than we can ever understand. Fill up our eyes with the light of your love so that we don’t squint our eyes in greed and distrust but look instead with generosity on others. May we deny and abandon the self-worship we are so drawn to and worship you alone. This single worship will fill our entire lives with Light!

 

Discontent disguised as “spiritual” longing

A few weeks ago “Do not grow weary in well doing” literally jumped into my mind. It was unexpected, both out of place and time. I was NOT engaged in what I thought of as “well doing” at that moment. Nor was I in a particularly “spiritual” frame of mind. In fact, after the verse jumped in—surprising me—I retorted back at, I assumed, the Holy Spirit. “What if I’m just simply ‘weary’ without there being any ‘well doing’ going on at all? That’s rather depressing, don’t you think? It means I am weary simply spinning my wheels, simply being ‘busy’ with suburban mom ‘stuff.’”
I waited for a moment, wondering if another verse would “pop up.” Nothing came, but I was left with a slightly unsettled feeling, as if the conversation were not yet finished.
A week later it continued, this time a bit more forcefully. I was driving (no surprise there–a literal spinning of the wheels), vaguely longing for “otherness”—a more focused ministry that involved our entire family (or at least my husband and I together), a centralized location that would involve much less “in the car” time for me…
This time it wasn’t a verse, just three words, but they cut across my mind, stark, black on a white background.
“You are discontent.”
What? Discontent? That didn’t describe me! I was simply longing for something “better,” right? A more spiritual life, one that stood out as “different.” One that could serve as a good example for others…
Ooh—pride as well as discontent.
Yuck!
Really, Lord? I asked. This—what I so often see as a “small” life—is what You want for me? This here? This now?
Yes.
It was confirmed by a conversation with my mother-in-law. “Let me tell you what I’ve been praying for you lately,” she said. (What a blessing to have not one but two sets of parents who pray for me!) “I’m praying that you will see the goodness and purpose in all the running around, the cooking, the organizing of schedules, the ‘mothering stage’ you are now in, with kids who need you in very different ways than they did when they were younger. I’m praying that you will understand that all this, though it seems small, is BIG. In all this, you are loving your children. This is your good work.”
Good work. Well doing.
Oh, Lord, I prayed, help me to see this—to keep on seeing this.
And help me not to grow weary.
*Here’s a link to a Tim Keller sermon titled “Everyone with a Gift” in which he talks about this very kind of discontent. I’ve listened to it twice now–and I probably need to listen to it again.

sermon suggestion

I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Keller’s sermons lately. He’s senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC. I wanted to share this one: The Basis of Prayer: “Our Father.” 

It’s a reminder of the heart of the Gospel, but it also goes deep, so as I listened to it, I was drawn back to my own helplessness and God’s provision for it but was also wowed with some new insights into this great mystery.

Keller says that the words “Our Father” remind us that God does not want His children coming to Him in pride (“You owe me, God, because of all I’ve done”) OR in shame (“I don’t measure up. I keep trying, but I just can’t.”) Both attitudes come from thinking of our relationship with God as a “business relationship,”  one in which both parties must perform. The only basis on which followers of Christ can approach God is in a child-to-parent relationship. Keller expounds on this with some wonderful insights and gives descriptors of ways we may have slipped into thinking of our relationship with God as business rather than family.

I especially recommend this sermon (35 minutes in length) if you are struggling or have struggled with feeling you must “measure up” for God.