Series: Sermon on the Mount
Title: Generosity Beyond Measure
Matthew 6:1-4, 19-24
June 24, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen
Being your minister is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. It is pure joy to work along side of each of you, bringing hope to a confused world, striving to make things better for our community and our world. Being with you as you face some of life’s most devastating moments and celebrating incredible joys together.
Being your minister is also one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life. Between committee meetings and community involvement, pastoral care and ministry planning; encouraging and teaching, leading and instructing; being your pastor is at times, overwhelming. Thankfully I was able to take a renewal leave in April, to get away for a time of rest and spiritual renewal, and I thank you for that.
On the first day of my renewal leave, I went to Kathleen Wall’s studio. You know, Healing Hands by Kathleen? And before I could even take off my shoes to get ready for the massage treatment, she handed me an envelope. Inside was a gift for two sessions from an anonymous giver.
Although it was anonymous, I had a pretty good idea where it came from, but the givers wanted to give in secret. They wanted to honor me and honor God by doing exactly what our first set of scriptures suggests. “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Perhaps you have been the recipient of an anonymous gift?
We all know that generosity and charitable giving is important. We are encouraged to support our local church, charitable foundations such as Habitat for Humanity, Spread the Word Nevada, or United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Some of us are encouraged to give to the colleges and universities we attended. I receive solicitations almost daily, seeking to elicit an emotional response that will result in a timely donation.
And while giving is vital to our faith formation, we often give out of a wrong or false motive. Some people give out of a sense of duty, others feel motivated to give in order to receive some sort of prestige or respect. Still others give because they feel they must, “because the overflowing love and kindness in their heart allows them to do nothing else.”
What is our motive for giving? Do you give because as a member of this church you feel duty bound to put money in the collection plate each week? I certainly hope not. Christian faith is not to be about duty, it is about a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. A relationship which compels us to model Jesus and share our resources with those who have none. Jesus gave everything he had for us.
Or do we give to receive accolades or rewards? A cool KNPR mug that shows all of our friends that we are sustaining members. Or do we give to have our name printed on a list of contributors, or to have a plaque with our name on it placed on our donation? Do we give to receive praise and acclamation from our peers?
Or do we give out of a heart of gratitude, with an understanding that with God within us, we can’t do anything else but give, to help God’s people. Jesus shares in this part of the sermon on the mount, that we are to give in secret, or in private. We shouldn’t make a big deal about what we’re doing. No trumpets, no parade, just a quiet donation given in love, to help others. To do otherwise means we have received our reward. Giving publicly is a transaction. We give and then we are honored or rewarded for the gift. But when we give in secret, our reward comes from God.
“Our giving must never be the grim self-righteous outcome of a sense of duty, still less must it be done to enhance our own glory and prestige…it must be the instinctive outflow of a loving heart; we must give to others as Jesus Christ gave himself to us.”
There are people in our church who do not wish anyone to know what they give. Their gifts are offered in cash, with no name attached. They understand beautifully what this principle is about. I have seen others who announce loudly when they have donated to this fund or that project. While both gifts are much appreciated, receiving our reward from God is greater than any KNPR mug we will receive.
Skipping over the section about prayer and fasting (verses 5 to 18) – we’ll get back to that next week – we come upon Christ’s admonishment to “not store up things for ourselves here on earth.” Jesus tells us to look toward heaven, colleting those things that will be of value when we come face to face with God. My collection of elephants won’t matter, will it, when I meet Jesus?
We must focus on those things that are eternal. If it can be eaten by moths, destroyed by rust, or stolen by thieves, it isn’t worthy much at all. At least not much in God’s economy. God isn’t impressed in how big our houses are, or if it’s along the golf course or overlooking the lake. God isn’t partial to Mercedes or BMW’s. Where we live, what we drive or how many possessions we own isn’t really the point is it?
The question is, are these possessions more important to us than our relationship with God? What happens to us if we put all our faith in stuff. What happens if we trust in our 401K and our investment accounts more than God and the market crashes? Will our happiness be gone?
Many years ago, JJ and I were in fairly serious financial trouble. We were two months behind on our mortgage and I was agonizing over our bills, trying to figure out what I was going to pay and what would be left unpaid. I was so upset and felt hopeless and helpless to get out of the hole we were in.
Then the phone rang. It was my friend Ellen who lived in Beaver, Utah. She was calling to tell me that her two toddlers, age 1 and 3, were killed in a fire at their home that morning. In an instant I realized that my treasure wasn’t my home or my stuff, but my children, my family. Losing my children would be a tragedy, losing my home would not.
In that instant my priorities changed forever. And even though I know that I may one day have to say good bye to one of my children, I trust God completely. I have learned not to hold onto things that will be eaten by moths, rusted or stolen. Because none of that matters.
My happiness is because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I find peace every day knowing that my eyes are on Jesus, not distracted by a sparkly, diamond bracelet. Having our priorities straight gives us the freedom to not stress about things, but to rely fully and completely on God!
So once we have our priorities straight, how do we build up these treasures in Heaven? What types of deposits can we be making? Well, certainly giving of our time, talent, and tithes is a start. But we must do so without making a big deal about it. Next, we can obey God, we can spend time helping others; working and serving God by helping those in need. Think about it as eternal deposits, that only God knows about!
The next section of this morning’s texts says that “The eye is the lamp of the body.” “The idea behind this passage is one of childlike simplicity. The eye is regarded as the window by which the light gets into the whole body.” If the window is clear and clean much light enters the body. But if it is distorted with dirt, or fog, or is obscured in any way, the light will not enter in. Jesus says, “the light which gets into anyone’s heart, soul and being, depends on the spiritual state of the eye through which it has to pass, for the eye is the window of the whole body.”
Things that might distort or block our vision include prejudice, jealousy, or self-centeredness. “So, Jesus is saying, “There is nothing like generosity for giving you a clear and undistorted view of life and of people; and there is nothing like the grudging and ungenerous spirit for distorting your view of life and of people.” We must think the best of others, demonstrate generosity, and see others as people, worthy of love and charity.
Finally, Jesus preached that we can’t serve two masters, we can’t serve both God and wealth. Money is a tool that God provides us so that we can fully answer the call He has placed upon our lives. Some callings require great amounts of financial resources – like attending seminary. Many other callings require a faithful and giving heart, and a sincere willingness to be the hands and feet of Christ in our community. I once heard it said that you can’t chase two rabbits and expect to catch even one. Let that sink in. You will never be able to catch them both. So, my dear sisters and brothers, which rabbit will you chase? Will you chase Christ? Or Cash?
Let us pray: God of the universe, creator of all things, open our eyes to our economy, help us align our ways with your ways, give us the courage to give in secret, to seek you not stuff, and to keep our eyes focused on you. We can’t do this alone, without you we are lost and wandering. Thank you for Jesus’ sermon to his disciples, that is as relevant today as it was so many years ago. Give us the courage to chase Christ in all we do. It is in Jesus name we pray. Amen.
 Matthew 6:3
 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series. The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Revised Edition. The Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1975. Page 190
 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series. The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Revised Edition. The Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1975. Page 191
 Matthew 6:19
 Ibid, 243
 Ibid, 246