"Living in The Spirit of Generosity"

(Galatians 5:22-25, 2 Corinthians 9:6-12)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

Did you know that at one time generosity was illegal in Santa Cruz, California? That's right. It was illegal for someone to put money in other people's parking meters without their permission. The practice called "plugging coins" was considered an illegal act by Santa Cruz municipal code. The fine for a parking violation was $12.00. The penalty "plugging" thirteen dollar.

Mr. Twister whose real name is Cory McDonald, is a professional clown and balloon twister, who has spared many car owners in Santa Cruz, California the misery of that twelve dollar parking ticket by putting quarters in their expired parking meters. After several warnings, Mr. Twister was ticketed for his random acts of illegal kindness. However, he refused to stop doing what he considers "doing to others as he would have them do to him."

But there is justice. In a strange twist, the news media got hold of the story and pretty soon Mr. Twister was being interviewed by CNN and nearly every news organization in the US. Letters from children all over the country began pouring into Santa Cruz City offices. Other clowns got into the act. Bumper stickers were created. Mr. Twister became a local and national hero.

His acts of kindness prevailed. Declaring the law a "public relationship disaster," the Santa Cruz City Council took emergency action to yank the law from the books immediately. In an effort to show their support and their chagrin, each member of the City Council, along with the mayor, donned red clown noses and beeped their vote of approval.

All Mr. Twister ever really wanted was for people to be nice to each other and help in whatever way they can. That's all. (1)

Isn't it amazing how a random act of kindness and generosity can become a national news story. Not because Cory McDonald's generosity was so different but because someone tried to make it illegal.

Let me read the quote concerning the Fruit of the Spirit. "Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love's touch. Generosity is love's character. Faithfulness is love's habit. Gentleness is love's self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins." (2)

Generosity is one the Fruit of the Spirit which Paul identifies in Galatians 5. Let's look at that passage and then look also at what Paul has to say in 2 Corinthians 9:6-12.

Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)

[22] By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

[23] gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

[24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

[25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (NRSV)

[6] The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

[7] Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

[8] And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.

[9] As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

[10] He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

[11] You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;

[12] for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many Thanksgivings to God.

I think as you read these passages you can see that God wants us to be Generous. And as we focus our lives on serving Christ we become more generous, because generosity is one of the Fruit of the Spirit which grows in our lives. That Fruit leads us to be Generous with our Love; Generous with our Forgiveness; Generous with our Giving; and Generous with our Kindness.

I. GENEROUS WITH OUR LOVE:

A. We are called to be Generous With Our Love. In the apostle John's first letter, he writes, "We love because God first loved us." (1 John 4:19) That's how we operate. We love God because we found out that God loves us. We found out, through the daily blessings of life; through the talents we have been given; through the witness of nature; and especially through the love of Christ, who died for our sins that God love us. God loves us.

It's not what we have done but what has been done for us that causes that love to grow in our lives. It's not our love for God that makes us humble, it's knowing that God loves us in spite of all the horrible things we have done. God loves us.

There's an old Dennis the Menace cartoon, it shows Dennis and Joey leaving the Wilson's front porch, each with a handful of cookies. Joey has this surprised look on his face and Dennis says, "Mrs. Wilson gives us cookies not because we're nice, but because she's nice."

Dennis is right on target. It's not what we do but what God does for us. And Mrs. Wilson is living out the Golden Rule. Dennis and Joey are just responding.

We love God because God loves us. Everything we do should be motivated by our love for God. We give to God and God's work through the Church because God loves us.

B. While traveling in rural Oklahoma a man's car ran out of gas. He went to a nearby farmhouse to call a service station but the farmer insisted on taking him to town, bringing him back, and even staying with him until the car was running again. The grateful man offered the farmer a $20 bill and the farmer shook his head.

When he insisted, the farmer replied, "Look, mister, I feel very good about helping you. If I took your money, you'd buy that feeling back from me. And it's not for sale!" (3) That farmer understood that being Generous With Our Love is an important part of being a Christian and bearing Fruit for the Kingdom.

II. GENEROUS WITH OUR FORGIVENESS:

A. We are called to be Generous With Our Forgiveness as well. Perhaps you heard the story about the woman who was ordered to fill a large bucket with water and was told to carry the bucket from the well a short way to the kitchen of the home. However, there was one serious problem: the bucket had many small holes in the bottom.

This is the same dilemma that effects each of us. Our buckets of forgiveness are flawed and full of holes. Most of the time, by the time we have decided to forgive someone, we run out of steam, we run out of enthusiasm for the forgiving on the way to see them. We might even decide there are a few more reasons why we shouldn't forgive them.

Our buckets of forgiveness have holes in them. Only the bucket of God's love and grace is full and without holes. God's bucket is sufficient, ours are not. But the interesting thing is, the more we fill our bucket of forgiveness and begin the journey to forgive others as we have been forgiven, the more the holes in our bucket of forgiveness begin to mend themselves.

But it takes a conscious act of willingness, an act of obedience. Even if you can't make the full journey, your willingness to take those first steps begins to mend your bucket.

B. A mother took her children to a restaurant. Her six-year-old son asked if he could say the blessing. As they bowed their heads, he prayed, "God is good. God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!"

Along with all the laughter from the other customers a woman nearby remarked, "That's what's wrong with this country. Kids today don't even know how to pray. Asking God for ice-cream! Why, I never!" Hearing this, the son began to cry and asked his Mom, "Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?"

As his mother held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job, and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at the boy and said, "I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer."

"Really?" the little fellow asked. "Cross my heart." the man answered. Then, in theatrical whisper, he added with enough volume the critical woman could hear: "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."

The mother did purchase ice cream at the end of the meal. Her son stared at his ice cream for a moment and then did something a bit unusual. He picked up his sundae and without a word walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her: "Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul, and my soul is good already." (4)

That little boy understood and exemplified what it means to be Generous With Our Forgiveness.

III. GENEROUS WITH OUR GIVING:

A. We're also called to be Generous With Our Giving. And sometimes, just like in the case of Mr. Twister, it doesn't take very much to be as Generous in our Giving as God.

In A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Rev. John R. Ramsey tells how in one church a certain person provided him with a rose boutonniere for the lapel of his suit every Sunday. At first he really appreciated it but then it sort of became routine. Then one Sunday it became very special.

As he was leaving the Sunday Service a young boy walked up to him and said, "Sir, what are you going to do with your flower?" At first the preacher didn't know what the boy was talking about. When it sank in, he pointed to the rose on his lapel and asked the boy, "Do you mean this?"

The boy said, "Yes, sir. If you're just going to throw it away, I would like it."

The preacher smiled and told him he could have the flower and then casually asked what he was going to do with it. The boy, who was probably no more than 10 years old, looked up at the preacher and said, "Sir, I'm going to give it to my granny. My mother and father divorced last year. I was living with my mother, but she married again, and wanted me to live with my father. I lived with him for a while, but he said I couldn't stay, so he sent me to live with my grandmother. She is so good to me. She cooks for me and takes care of me. She has been so good to me that I wanted to give her that pretty flower for loving me."

When the little boy finished, the preacher could hardly speak. His eyes filled with tears and he knew he had been touched by God. He reached up and unpinned the rose. With the flower in his hand, he looked at the boy and said, "Son, that is the nicest thing that I've ever heard but you can't have this flower because it's not enough. If you'll look in front of the pulpit, you'll see a big bouquet of flowers. Different families buy them for the Church each week. Please take those flowers to your granny because she deserves the very best."

Then the boy made one last statement which Rev. Ramsey said he will always treasure. The boy said, "What a wonderful day! I asked for one flower but got a beautiful bouquet." (5)

That's Generosity. That's the attitude which should guide our giving. Like that boy's granny, God has blessed us so much. God has been so good to us that giving shouldn't even be a question. It should just flow from us naturally and Generously.

IV. GENEROUS WITH OUR KINDNESS:

A. And finally, we are called to be Generous With Our Kindness. Didn't Bob do a good job last week dealing with kindness? One thing I've discovered about Kindness is that it's difficult to give away because it keeps coming back to you. The more kindness you show, the more kindness is shown you. It's sort of one of those immutable laws of the Spirit. It's like trying to out give God, it just can't be done. Somebody said the best way to be kind is to "Remember the Golden Rule . . . and remember that it's your turn." I really like that.

Samuel Johnson once said: "Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." (6)

Ann Curry, news anchor of NBC's Today Show writes concerning her father: "Kindness has always mattered to our father. He taught us to honor people, and he has encouraged us since before I can remember to empathize with human suffering. When I was a teenager, he'd say, 'Ann, go do something that helps people. Do something of service. It will always make you feel good about your life.'" (7)

We are called to be Generous With Our Kindness. It's what sets Christians apart from the rest of the world. Rev. Don Maddox tells the story of a little girl who was standing in line at church to get a free ice cream cone on a hot summer's day. There wasn't any cost for the ice cream except a hug from the one who was giving out the ice cream. Each child said a polite, "Thank You" and offered a hug. (8)

After receiving the ice cream cone, this little girl gave the person two hugs and walked away by saying, "Keep the change."

That's what it means to be Generous With Our Kindness.

CONCLUSION:

There's an old Chinese Proverb which says: "A bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses."

So it is when through the Love of God, we are filled with the Joy of the Spirit, which floods our hearts with Peace and contentment, allows us to be Patient and encourages us to not only be Kind but to reach out and share that Love, Joy, Peace, Patience and Kindness with a Generosity born of God.

Be Generous with your Love,

Be Generous with your Forgiveness,

Generous with your Giving, and

Be Generous with your Kindness so the Fruit of God's Spirit might continue to grow in you and touch the loves of others.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

________________________________

Bibliography

1. www.benricelaw.com/twister and The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633

2. Source Unknown

3. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, Dec 1987

4. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, FEB 2000

5. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, pp. 32-33. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fl., 1995.

6. From The Book of Positive Quotations, by Samuel Johnson

7. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, SEP 2001 From "The Kindness of Strangers," by Ann Curry, from USA Weekend, August 3-5, 2001+

8. The Pastor's Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651, AUG 2000

Other References Consulted