July 16, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 5:27-28 (NRSV)
After this [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up, left everything, and followed him.
Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.
For context, you can read Luke 5:27-32 here.
When we follow Jesus, we learn to think differently about “our stuff.” Whether we have relatively little or whether we have a lot, all of our possessions ultimately belong to the Lord and are committed to his work. What this means for each of us will vary with our circumstances and calling. But we will share together in a life of hospitality and generosity.
This devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In the last two Life for Leaders devotions we have examined the story of Levi, the tax collector whom Jesus called to follow him. Yesterday, we reflected on the fact that following Jesus leads us to a whole new way of thinking about “our stuff.” In some cases, we will donate our stuff or its value to needy individuals or worthy organizations. In other cases, like Levi, we will use our stuff for the sake of Christ and his mission.
Before we leave Levi to move on in the Gospel of Luke, I’d like to share three brief stories of people using their stuff for Christ and his purposes. I hope to illustrate a variety of responses from a variety of Jesus followers.
The first story comes from my time in college. During my senior year at Harvard, a bunch of us from the Christian fellowship were invited by a Black Pentecostal church in Bridgeport, Connecticut to join them for a weekend retreat. About thirty of us—mainly Anglos and Asians who were not Pentecostal, by the way—took them up on this generous offer. Not only did the Bridgeport folks lead the retreat for us, but also they put us up in their homes and fed us fantastic food (my first experience of soul food, by the way). Four of our group crowded into the pastor’s modest apartment, but he and his family didn’t seem to mind the obvious inconvenience. They helped us feel warmly welcomed and truly at home.
The next story happened several years later. In the summer of 1986 my dad died of cancer at the age of 54. As the end of the year drew near, my extended family and I began to worry about Christmas. It didn’t seem right to “do Christmas” as we always had. Yet it didn’t seem right to skip Christmas, either. We had limited funds so couldn’t envision something creative for our whole family. Then a friend of my mom approached her with an opportunity. She and her husband had a second home near Palm Springs, California, and would be glad to let us use it for Christmas vacation. When my mom mentioned the large size of our extended family, her friend said that would be no problem. Their “home” was really more of a compound, with several cottages, tennis court, swimming pool, and a giant main house. I can’t even imagine how much it would have cost to rent that place in prime season. But my mom’s friend wanted us to use it free of charge. So that Christmas my family and I spent five days celebrating, grieving, and relaxing in luxury unlike anything we had ever known. While there, I read the guest register and realized that my mom’s friend and her husband gave away their place to hundreds of people each year: church groups, Young Life groups, inner city mission groups, etc.
My third story comes from my time as a pastor in Irvine, California. One day, a member of my church came to see me. She shared with me that she was moving away from Irvine and would be leaving our church. She wanted me to know that she planned to tithe on the sale of her house—not just the increase in value, but the sale. She was excited to do this as an act of gratitude to God for our church. Now, without asking I knew that two things were true. First, homes in Irvine were selling at high prices and her gift would be substantial. Second, this dear woman was not a person of significant means. Her husband had left her several years ago and she struggled as a single mother. The church had actually helped her with a few financial challenges along the way. So I was stunned by her generosity. I even tried to suggest that she could give less, but she’d have none of it. She loved our church and loved the Lord and loved the idea that she could give generously from the sale of her home.
Each of these stories illustrates a different way of responding to the call of Jesus. Each one inspires me to consider how I might grow in generosity, hospitality, and sacrificial living. I hope these stories will inspire you too.
How do you respond to the three stories in this devotion?
Have you ever experienced anything like that described in one of the stories?
How are you able to use your stuff for God’s purposes?
With your small group or a wise friend, talk about how you might become more generous and hospitable with what God has entrusted to you.
Lord Jesus, today I thank you for experiences I have had of your people being generous and hospitable. I thank you for those who have been willing to sacrifice for the sake of your kingdom and its people.
I ask, Lord, that you help me to learn from those who model generosity, hospitality, and sacrifice. Help me to be like them as I seek to follow you in tangible ways. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. A group study on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Generous Hospitality at Work (Small Group Study Series)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.