Feb 17, 2014

It's all God's anyways.

For the least of these....

Scripture reader – Luke 10:25-29
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Sermon Scripture - Luke 10: 30-37
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Many of us have heard the story of the Good Samaritan. A man on a trip was waylaid by robbers who left him for dead, presumably stealing anything he was carrying of value. He lay on the side of the road and was avoided by a priest and a Levite. Then another stranger happened along, and he “was moved with pity”, bandaged the man's wounds, put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn and tended him, then paid for his care.

There are a huge number of things that could be said about this parable, a huge array of angles at which to view how Jesus answered the question “who is my neighbor?” I want to focus on the “why”. WHY would the good Samaritan go out of his way to help this stranger who was busted and bleeding on the road? Asking why might seem a little silly to us – but we do not live in those times. In those times, someone who was on the side of the road may have been luring a gentle hearted person into a trap so that HE could be waylaid by robbers. In those times, contact with a dead body was considered to be defiling, so the priest and the Levite may have assumed the man was dead and avoided him in order to not be defiled.

WHY did he help this man? Jesus says “But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.”

When he saw him, he was moved with pity.” Jesus tells the story of a Samaritan helping a man on the road not because the Samaritan expected something in return, but because he was moved with pity at seeing the broken man's plight. He didn't expect anything in return....he simply helped the man because it was the right thing to do.

If patience is persistent love in the face of adversity...
If kindness is seeing ourselves in others and responding accordingly...
Then generosity is giving persistent love to everyone without expecting anything in return.

Generosity is about attitude.

Let's go back to the Good Samaritan. Presumably he was on his way to something as well if he was traveling on the road. Presumably he had a number of things he'd rather do, a number of other ways he'd rather use his resources. Yet he stopped and helped without expecting a return.

This is just what God does with us! He sees us broken and on the side of the road, wounded, bleeding, being passed over by others who can't trouble themselves with our plight. He bathes our wounds, sets us up on his ride, and brings us to healing. As he does, so he wants us to do.

But why is this story in Luke? A scholar named Mark Allan Powell put together a book about the Gospels. In one of his chapters on Luke, he states that:

Luke wants to show his readers what God accomplishes through the lives of ordinary people to heighten their expectations of what God might accomplish through them. Luke wants his readers to believe that the possibility of God's will being accomplished in their lives an in the world is greater than they imagine.”

God works generosity through ordinary people. He shows his persistent, abundant love to people through ordinary people just like you and me.

This is me and my parents. Most of you know that I grew up in a cabin in the middle of the Alaskan forest, surrounded by trees and bears. Now, I mean “cabin”....Lincoln log style, one-room structure that flexed during earthquakes and kept us snug as bugs in rugs during the winter. Unfortunately, logs are rather flammable. When I was 9 years old, our cabin went up in flames in the middle of the night...of course in the middle of winter! Thankfully, we had some other structures on the property and we spent the night in one of those other structures. The next morning, my dad had to spend some time getting our snow machine working again because it had been parked close enough to the cabin that the side melted in a little bit. Once it was working, he went to town to let people know what had happened and to get help.

He came back with some food and supplies, the mail, and John.

Now, John is a man whom Dad had just met when he went to town for help. John was a man whom Dad had heard people whispering about, about what a “no good” he was, how no one trusted him, etc. People avoided him. Dad saw him, took pity on him, and took him to our house so that we could help him.

Wait a minute Dad, we just had a house fire...we lost everything....and you come home with someone who needs our help? Surely someone else can help him!

I think it was my Mom who pointed out to Dad that we had just lost everything, how could we help someone? Dad said we had another structure on the property where John could stay, and he gave the same answer he gave every time he helped someone and others asked why - “it's all God's anyways.”

My Dad often has the attitude of true generosity. It is all God's anyways. He saw John in an hour of John's desperate need, and he put him on our snow machine and brought him home with us that we might tend him and help him, without expecting a single thing from him in return. I now call John “brother”.

That is true generosity. True generosity is seeing Jesus in the reflection and responding with compassion, using “our resources” to tend the cares of those in need freely and abundantly without expecting anything in return.

Imagine you are homeless and being served at a soup kitchen. There are three dishes: peas, potatoes, and chicken. The peas are being served by a middle aged woman who is well to-do, who is there because she wants another feather in her social cap. The potatoes are being served by another middle aged woman, but she is there because she got in trouble with the law and has to be there to serve community service, or her parole officer is going to report her and she will likely be incarcerated again. The chicken is being served by a woman who wants to be there, who truly loves people who are homeless and wants to help. Where does true generosity live? Which station would be your favorite?


Be truly generous – help anyone in need without expecting anything in return. Dahmon and I have often helped out our friends financially. We used to say that our tithing was in the form of helping friends when they were in need. Recently a friend whom we helped out came into some financial stability, and talked about “paying us back”, and was totally shocked when I said “you don't owe us anything.”

We are to be generous because it is simply the right thing to do, not because we will get something in return. If we are expecting anything in return, we are doing it for the wrong reasons, with the wrong attitude. The expected return doesn't have to come from the person whom we have aided. Sometimes we expect returns from those around that person, or from society for being “such a good person”.

But we are to do good things such that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing (Matthew 6:3). Such that we are storing up treasure in Heaven, not here on Earth.

This is not to say that acknowledging the good someone has done is a bad thing. Certainly, that is not what I'm saying at all. In a world where darkness would squelch whatever light shines, it is not bad to acknowledge good things. By all means, extend thanks and support when you see someone or an organization that is being generous.

The point is that our generosity must not come from a place of “look at me, I did XYZ”, hence getting our reward here on Earth. It must come from a place of recognizing ourselves and Jesus in our neighbors and persisting in tending their needs, using our resources to love and help our neighbors as God has loved and helped us – freely and abundantly and without an expectation of returns. Just as the good Samaritan did with the man he saw on the road. Just as God does with us.

No comments: