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‘Enough’ is an Illusion

July 30th, 2009 · No Comments

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:26)

Of all the times I’ve asked God to help me or to provide something for me, I don’t remember ever asking Him for someone I can help or provide for. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve always asked to get. I’ve never asked to give.

I’ve given and I’ve helped plenty of times (whatever ‘plenty’ means). I just don’t know that in the million times I’ve asked God for something, I’ve ever asked Him for the opportunity to give something to someone else. Maybe I have … but I don’t remember.

I’m probably not alone in this. I used to think my situation was unique, but the more I talk to folks the more I discover that I’m about as unique as a BB in a ball bearing factory. If I suffer from a form of evil selfishness, it’s probably a very common strain.

But the term ‘selfish’ doesn’t really cover this; it’s deeper. Maybe ‘backwards’ fits.

Think about our most popular giving verses. “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38) Is it just me or is the emphasis always put on what we’ll get in return, “… pressed down, shaken together and running over …”?

Here’s a TV favorite, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6) TV guy translation: ‘Sow your seed today (i.e. send me a check) so that you may reap the Lord’s bounty.’ Emphasis on the reaping.

Sorry, I’m picking on the TV guys again. That game can be played just as easily in person, by mail, on the radio or on the internet. TV just works better.

Still, I don’t hear the other seed verse much on TV; “… unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

And for heaven’s sake, don’t mention, Matthew 19:21 during share-a-thon week! “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’” First of all, the remit to address is wrong; secondly, there’s no customer back-end: “you will have treasure in heaven.” Where’s the payoff in that?

That’s enough sarcasm for one week.

The point I’m making is we’ve got giving backwards. We’re all about giving when it means we’re doing the receiving, and we can be talked into a little giving ourselves when we’ve got iron-clad guarantees that we’ll get a big return on our investment; but we don’t focus much on giving just because that’s what Jesus did and told us to do.

We’re to give to others because He gave to us … end of story. What we get, if anything, as a result of our giving is completely irrelevant to our reason for giving. And in God’s economy giving is way bigger than getting. Getting is a by-product of giving like lint is a by product of putting towels in the dryer. It comes with the process but it’s certainly not the reason to dry towels.

It would be extremely cool to balance out my God give me this, prayers with God who can I give to prayers. I’m going to start doing that. If you want to do the same, go ahead.

And if you’re stumped on who to give to, here’s a hint: open your Bible and read who Jesus gave to and who he told others to give to, and then read about who the apostles had the early churches taking up collections for. Chances are we’ve got a lot of the same kinds of folks around today. They’re as good a place to start as any.

*****

On a completely different note that has absolutely nothing to do with the subject above. I was pondering about something a few nights ago. Here it is:

What would it be like if we only kept enough of our resources to survive for one year? Everything else we gave away. Where would we be after the year was through?

What if we reserved enough for just six months – giving everything else away? What if just enough for one month? What if we kept just enough for a day? What would our lives be like if we lived only in the moment; keeping what we needed at the moment and giving everything else away? What if we even gave away what we needed? Would we survive then?

‘Enough’ is an illusion. I’ve never had enough material wealth to feel secure in what I had. But I’ve always managed to eat and always had somewhere to sleep. I’ve worried about not surviving many, many, many times in my life; but I’ve always survived. And starvation has never really been a serious personal threat.

Security in anything but God is an illusion. Outside of Him, security does not exist. The sudden disappearance of our investment accounts and retirement savings in the last two years has proven that. ‘Well, at least we’ve got food on the table and a roof over our heads.’ That’s true … unless you’re one of the millions who have lost your job due to the economic meltdown and your home in the mortgage crisis. ‘Well, at least we have our health.’ True dat … unless the swine flu, salmonella, HIV, or a city bus gets you first. There really isn’t a fool proof source of security in this world … just ask Michael Jackson.

Security can only be found in a personal God, Whose loving care surrounds you and engulfs you. His security is everywhere; proving itself every day, moment by moment. And yet we cling to an illusion and worry.

How hard would it be to simply let go of all the things that promise security but can’t provide it, and cling to the One thing that proves over and over to be the only real source of security?

What would our lives be like if we tested that security daily by giving everything else away and resting only in God’s promise to provide?

Pretty seditious questions, I know. Not very practical really. How would we pay the electric bill and where would the money for next week’s groceries come from?

Oh well … just a thought.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

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