Give and Do Not Hold Back
Hosea 11: 1-11; Colossians 3: 1-11; Luke 12: 13-21
Pearl: Lay up treasures in heaven; give and do not hold back.
Function: To medicate against greed by prescribing generosity and selflessness.
In the movie “Wall Street,” Gordon Gecko speaks for the selfish and greedy world we live in and struggle with.
He said, “Greed is good; greed is right; greed works; greed clarifies and cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” He basically said that greed for every human instinct and desire “…will not only save Teldar Paper but it will save the United States of America.”
In contrast, from the beginning our Judeo-Christian ethic derives from: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20: 17).
Proverbs attend to this theme frequently:
- “Such is the end of all who are greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its possessors” (1:19).
- “Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households, but those who hate bribes will live” (15:27).
- “All day long the wicked covet, but the righteous give and do not hold back” (21:26).
- Again, Jesus said: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12: 15).
are you dreaming of getting? How much do you think about it? How much energy do
you expend thinking of ways in which you can acquire it?
- The problem with greed, wrote Donald Capps, is that “it distracts us from what is important in life” (Deadly Sins and Saving Virtues, Capps, p. 36).
about, dreaming about, figuring out ways in which to get this or that distracts
us from what is important in life. It sucks up our best skills and talents.
Those best skills and talents that we have could instead be used for the
benefit of God and therefore the benefit of others.
- William James said, “I am what I attend to.”
- His name is Gordon Gecko and appealing to the human animalistic or reptilian brain he proclaims, “Greed is good.”
- Jesus said: “Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” (Message).
Give and do not hold back.
God’s people, like all others, fall victim to greed. It is a part of our nature.
- The scribes and Pharisees were commonly viewed as very spiritual. They were the leaders among God’s people. Yet Jesus called them “hypocrites” because they put on a polished appearance before the people yet they were, in his words, “full of greed and self-indulgence.”
- Among the Apostle Paul’s characteristics and qualifications for those who are put in positions of spiritual leadership in the church we read that they are: “…not lovers of money” (I Timothy 3:3) and “…not greedy for money” (I Timothy 3:8).
- Jesus taught that all that we have and all that we are is not just for our own safety and security but for God and therefore others.
Greed is characterized by “grasping for this and for that.” Yet as Jesus taught, “life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Life is about “giving and not holding back.” Holding back is “grasping for self.” Giving of ourselves for others…is life!
Jesus story about the rich fool is somewhat strange. It is strange for those of us who are living in this materialistic nation! Maybe it is not so strange to the poorest of the world’s poor.
- This fellow had a great crop one year. It was a bumper crop. He did a logical thing. He had his barns torn down to build bigger ones so that he could store his bumper crop. It seemed like a very logical and sensible thing to do.
Jesus called him a “fool” in his story. Jesus’ point was that he used his means
and his skills and his imagination to do nothing but build bigger barns to
enjoy a more secure and comfortable future. It was a waste of his considerable energies
- He could have done much more with his bumper crop. He could have put his skills and energies and imagination to using that bumper crop for the benefit of the very needy and the very poor.
The spirit of greed in us causes us to hold onto and grasp what we have out of fear that we will lose it. But the spirit of God compels us to give, joyfully and freely not holding back. In so doing it all comes back to us, after all. “Give and it will be given to you” is another biblical principle.
we are stingy with our time and our talents and our skills and our abilities,
we have more anxiety and worry. When we are open and generous with all that we
have and are, we find life.
- Dallas Willard wrote: “…if we do value ‘mammon’ as normal people seem to think we should, our fate is fixed. Our fate is anxiety. It is worry. It is frustration” (p. 209).
- When we look at money and things the way the world does, we miss what is truly important. Remember what Professor Capps wrote, “Greed is deadly because it distracts us from what is important in life.”
Jesus’ advice was to “lay up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust can destroy.” Real treasure is to be found in the things that matter most to God.
up treasures in heaven means caring about being about the well-being of others
and caring about the well-being of this wonderful planet that we live on.
- It is being self-less. Self-café is important and appropriate. It is just being “less” about self than others. You should tend to your own well-being. But you should guard against doing way too much of that.
- Excessive attention to bank accounts and financial reserves is not what God intends for us.
greatest energies should be used to invest in what God is doing. When our minds
are on the heavenly bank account for doing what the Lord wants to do, we
realize that it will never run out. We need not worry or fret over having
enough to do what God wants to do. He provides abundantly far more than we can
ask or imagine for what he wants to do.
- God’s people are encouraged not to worry because God always provides for that which fulfills his kingdom.
- Having treasure in heaven is having true treasure.
- Greed…is not good; don’t buy the lie. Even though it is a clarion call of our culture!
- When we invest our lives in what God is doing, we will never lose even a penny of our investment. This is the best investment. It is the one that will give us life.
- Use all of your skills, energies, talents, and your imaginations in devising ways to care for the things that our Lord cares about. This is laying up treasures in heaven!
As you receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper today, draw upon the bank that is true and eternally sound!