What do you do when the minister starts talking about generosity? Do you unconsciously check your pocket to make certain your wallet is there? Do you run math calculations through your mind wondering how much money you can afford to give? Do you start tuning him out, and slide down in your seat, hoping you won’t catch his eye?
Most of us have probably had feelings similar to those mentioned above. If you were raised in a Southern Baptist Church in the mid 20th century, you have certainly felt that way at one time or another. This sinner hated going to church on Sunday morning, if I knew that the collection the previous Sunday was low. I think at some point, How To Make Your Congregation Feel Guilty, must have been a graduate level course at Baptist seminaries.
That is why many congregants found it so refreshing when a young, fresh-faced pastor in Fort Worth started his sermon on generosity with a story about M&M’s®. It is hard to feel guilty when you are remembering those melt-in-your-mouth little pieces of goodness. Also, it is hard to slip down in your seat and hide when the pastor is grinning from ear to ear as he sets up his sermon with his M&M’s® story.
Just to be clear, part of this piece is a shameless ripoff of the sermon in question. The rest is how the sermon convicted me. However, I cannot do the sermon justice in print, and I am hoping you will check out Cody McQueen’s sermon. After you finish reading my piece!
Generosity is one of those words that people either love or hate. Usually, they love it or hate it because of the context in which it is used. If someone says, “You certainly showed a lot of generosity today.” It is likely you will be grinning, and saying, “Aw shucks. I didn’t do anything.” On the other hand, if someone says, “You need to be more generous with your time.” You may not feel like grinning.
This sinner struggles with the generosity issue. I hide my struggles well, and most would believe I do not struggle at all. I will drop almost anything to help someone out. I will put my stuff aside if a friend, or sometimes a stranger, needs something. I know I may be running around like a lunatic to catch up later, but I normally will not hesitate to help. Of course, there are times I cannot drop everything for one reason or another, but they are the exception, not the rule. At least, that is what I tell myself.
My real problem is not sharing or giving up my time for someone. It is not even giving up money for a good purpose. Though, I will admit it is sometimes harder to let go of my treasure than it is my time. My real problem is that in many cases, I am not giving my time, or my money, with the right heart.
I end and start every day by thanking God for what He has given me. In those moments, I am acutely aware of where everything I have comes from. Any gifts I have, any possession I have, even the time I have comes from God. My wife and family are gifts from God, and the time I have with them is a gift. I understand these facts every morning and every night. The hours in between waking and returning to bed are what give me trouble.
I do not forget where my time, treasure and family come from during the waking hours. I just hold them more tightly as I face the world. As Cody said during the sermon, I hold them in a clenched fist, and like M&M’s® they are not meant to be held in a clenched fist. Like M&M’s®, those gifts become less than they should be if held too tight.
I will open my fist. I will share. As I mentioned above, I will drop what I am doing to help someone. I will even dig into my pocket or wallet to help someone. I do this because I have been taught that is the right way to live.
I feel I would receive high marks for giving, if other men are judging me. Unfortunately, God is judging me, and he knows my heart. He knows I am giving because that is what I am supposed to do, not what I want to do in many cases. I give because I know that is what I need to do to follow Christ. I just do not always do it gladly. I act like I am glad, but that is for appearances sake. God knows my heart.
Generosity should be handled as one would handle M&M’s®. For M&M’S® to be shared and enjoyed properly, one holds them in an open hand where anyone can have some. If one holds them in a closed fist, they will begin to melt and change. If given grudgingly from a closed fist, they will not be as pure and good as they should be. They must be given freely and with a glad heart.
There is a problem with the M&M’s® gospel. If one gives all of his or her M&M’s® away, he or she will need to buy more. That is not the way God works. That is why the candy can only be an analogy. If you give of your gifts, and even your treasure, with a good heart, God will refill you. He may not replenish your M&M’s®, but He will replenish what you really need. He will refresh your soul.
This sinner knows believing one will be refreshed requires faith. It requires more faith than this writer has at times, but I keep working on it. I pray you will as well.
© S. E Jackson 2012