A Big Enough Gospel

Rev. Donnell T. Wyche — February 7, 2021

Big Enough Gospel – The Gospel of Generosity

We have discussed that the Gospel is about more than just our sins because the Gospel is about the whole person, that the Gospel is about our restoration as image-bearers, that we are being invited by Jesus to join God as co-regents empowered by the Holy Spirit that will compel us to act. We are invited to announce the good news of the God’s liberation, God’s restorative justice, God’s radical inclusion, and God’s generosity.

Creation is an expression of God’s generous love.

Imagine your friend invites you to a party. You arrive and there are lots of people, decorations, food and drink.There is enough for everyone. When you are hosted by someone that generous, you do not have to worry about your needs. You can just enjoy yourself and focus on the people around you. Yeah, that is what a good host wants for her guests. This is the picture of the world that we find in the Bible.”

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

blessed are those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

Creation is an expression of God’s generous love. He is the host and humans are his guests in a world of opportunity and abundance. We are called to keep the party going, to spread his goodness. This is a beautiful picture. But, it is not the way people experience the world. Rather, we find a world of scarcity and struggle, not abundance. And Jesus grew up in that kind of world. Under military occupation, people losing their land or families to debt and poverty.”

And yet, he would say things like this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38 – 42)

But, surely Jesus knew that things do not always work out. Sometimes, there really is not enough. Jesus did experience poverty first-hand. But he viewed the world through the story of the Hebrew scriptures which claimed that our scarcity problem isn’t caused by a lack of resources. Rather, the problem is our mindset that God cannot be trusted. Maybe God is holding out on me. Maybe there is not enough and maybe I need to take matters into my own hands. Once we are deceived into that mindset of scarcity, we can justify the impulse to take care of me and mine before anyone else. That leads to envy, anger, violence and a world where it seems like there is not enough. The party is over; it is turned into a battleground. But God wants all of us to experience his generosity.

When Jesus says, if anyone slaps you offer them the other cheek, is he inviting you to be taken advantage of? Is he inviting you to endure domestic violence? No, of course not! Jesus is taking an existing boundary, with an expected response, and is turning it on its head. When we have been treated unfairly, like someone lacking respect, instead of escalating the situation, demanding what is rightfully ours, Jesus invites us to join him and his father by being generous.

When someones sues you, when someones has given up trying to resolve the situation, to find an amicable solution and escalates it by taking you to court, don’t match their escalation. Instead settle out of court, and give them your coat as well. His invitation is radical, it’s expensive, it’s risky, but this is Jesus being Jesus. He is inviting us to join him as he reveals a Father who is good – always good, loving, and generous.

When someone imposes on you, don’t do what’s expected, just the first mile, carry the burden another mile. His invitation is radical, it’s expensive, it’s risky, but this is Jesus being Jesus. Will you accept his invitation and join him in this risky endeavor to reveal the generous and loving God among us?

Finally, Jesus says that’s not enough, I want to push in a little further, “Give to everyone who asks of you…” Clearly Jesus doesn’t know that things are tough right now, but that’s the rub. Jesus takes our fear and turns it into faith. This is another invitation, but it can feel different from the rest. This one seems like a little too much. In the other examples, you could imagine that those folks had some power to compel you to act, and your Jesus-shaped response is not to escalate their aggression with more aggression of your own. That makes sense!

However, in this last command, Jesus expects something that seems a little out of reach. Doesn’t he? How am I supposed to give to everyone who asks? What about me, my needs? What about my family? “Is this sustainable?” We ask Jesus. That’s my escape valve.

You can almost hear Jesus saying under his breath, “Freely you have received, so freely give.” This is the Jesus-shaped response, isn’t it? “Everything is mine,” he says, so be willing to give it away. “You only get to keep what you are willing to give away.”

Here’s what Jesus says in Mark 4:24–33,

Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.”

Every act of generosity is a seed.

You can’t do this if your picture of God is distorted. If you believe that everything you have is yours because you’ve earned it, it’s hard, if not impossible, to join God in this extravagant exercise. Jesus is inviting us to watch God, to pay attention to how he acts. To pattern our behavior after what God actually does. God is generous because he lives in a condition of abundance – his provisions can never be exhausted – and God is moved with compassion because he sees our need.

What’s Jesus trying to do here? He’s trying to get us to be like him. He want us to trust and reveal who the Father is, that the Father is generous.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? ” (Matthew 5:46-48)

Our generosity is to remind people of God’s generosity. We have been trying to work this out in our church community in different ways. We do this with our service projects throughout the county. We do this by giving away our Easter offering. We do this by showing up, speaking up, and being there for each other, and our community.

Think of if this way:

When Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows – he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps – harvest time! “How can we picture God’s kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It’s like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it.” (Mark 4:24–33)

Jesus’ mindset of abundance allowed him to live sacrificially and generously even towards his enemies. And Jesus called his followers to trust in God’s abundance, like him. That is why he said things like, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Or, “Do not worry about your life.” He is inviting us to live by a different story. One that is built on trust in God’s goodness and love. But living generously does not mean life is going to go well. I mean, look at Jesus. He was betrayed by his friends and he suffered. This was no surprise to Jesus. He knew that people would take advantage of his generosity. In fact, that was his plan. Really? Yeah. Think about it. Jesus knows we are all hopelessly deceived by the lie of scarcity that there is not enough. That’s a lie that needs to be defeated. So, that is what Jesus was doing when he gave us the gift of his life. Jesus’ death was the ultimate expression of God’s generous love.

Friends, this is the Gospel. Our generous attention of time, our working for peace and justice, our forgiveness of those who fail us, those who disappoint us, our generous giving to those in need, our generous kindness to those who are struggling with life, and our generous welcome of those who are without a place in this world, is a way for us to announce a big enough Gospel that declares God’s generosity for all of us.

Amen. Amen.