September 30, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:38 (NRSV)
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Jesus tells his followers to give, and to give generously. He promises that if we do, we will receive overflowing blessings from God. These blessings may or may not be financial. But when we give unsparingly, we have the assurance of knowing God is pleased. Plus, we are able to rejoice in the good that our giving supports. Our generosity makes a difference, not only “out there,” but also “in here,” in our hearts.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
I was the senior pastor of a church in Irvine, California, for 16 ½ years. I was the second “installed” pastor of the church, following an interim pastor who came after the church’s founding pastor, Ben Patterson. As you would expect, I inherited from Ben many practices that the church had come to expect. One was that I would preach three “stewardship” sermons every year in October. “Stewardship” as you might know, was code for “pledging and/or giving money to the church,” though it has a much richer biblical meaning. So, over the course of 16½ years, I preached 48 different sermons that, among other things, encouraged my church members to be generous in their giving.
Luke 6:38 was one of my favorite texts from which to preach, though I think I only used it twice in my whole time at Irvine. You can see why a pastor would love this passage. In quite straightforward language it tells the followers of Jesus to give. It follows this command with a most appealing and over-the-top promise, the sort of thing that might even get stingy Presbyterians to give unsparingly.
Jesus said that if you give, “it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap” (Luke 6:38). The English word “lap” doesn’t quite capture the sense of the original. Jesus was in fact referring to a folded garment, one that rested on your lap. This big pocket, if you will, could be filled with grain. And if you really wanted to get in all the grain you could, then you’d press it down and shake it together, actions that would make more room for more grain. In other words, Jesus said if you give generously, you will receive generously in return. In fact, he added, “for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38). If you give stingily, you’ll receive the same from the Lord. If you give abundantly, you will receive abundantly.
Now, let’s be sure not to misunderstand Jesus’s teaching here. It’s likely that he was speaking in these verses to people who had plentiful financial means. He would not have expected someone poor to literally give a large amount of money. Later in Luke Jesus will say that a poor widow who gave two copper coins to the temple treasury had, from Jesus’s perspective, given more than the wealthy who made large donations (Luke 21:1-4). So, the actual size of our gift doesn’t matter as much as the generosity it represents. A small, sacrificial gift from a person of modest means is really a giant gift.
Moreover, Jesus is not setting up a system of rigid economic exchange. Some preachers have made it sound as if Jesus promised that a person who gives generously will receive from God exactly that much money or even more. Yes, there are times when God rewards generosity with financial bounty. But there are other times as well, times when the rewards of giving are plentiful but not financial. I know a couple, for example, who decided to sell their wonderful home, downsizing to a much smaller place. They did so in order to give generously to their church and other ministries. Years later they had not received back the large amount they gave. But their hearts rejoiced over what their gift had enabled. They would say that they received in return far more than they gave, not in dollars, but in gratitude and joy.
When you think of generous giving, what or who comes to mind? Do you know people who are especially generous? If so, what motivates them? What rewards do they receive?
Are you a generous giver? If so, why? What has helped you to give unsparingly? If not, why not? What keeps you from giving as Jesus encourages? (Remember, Jesus thinks of giving not in terms of the total amount, but in terms of the capacity of the giver.)
What might help you to be more generous in your financial giving?
Talk with the Lord about how you might give something you were not planning on giving. Then, by his grace, do it. Pay attention to how you feel as you do.
Lord Jesus, your word to us is clear today. We are to give generously. We are to share with others what you have given to us. We do so with the knowledge that you will be pleased and that we will receive back generously from you.
Lord, you know me inside and out. You know when I am generous. You know when I am stingy. You know the fear that can keep me from sharing. You know how much I value security, how much I like to have money to buy the stuff I want. Help me, I pray, to give as you instruct. Teach me to give generously, trusting you with all of my life, including my finances. May I know the joy of contributing to your good work in this world. 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 High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: A Call to Sacrificial Generosity