Wednesday, January 6th Galatians 5:22-26

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:22-26

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California made the news again this past week. His congregation reached the end of the year with a significant budget gap of $900,000. He sent out an urgent appeal and the congregation, both the local congregation and others who care about Saddleback Church through the Internet, responded with gifts of over $2.4 million. That’s generosity.

Like many of you, I bought a copy of The Purpose Driven Life when it first came out. Pastor Warren made a ton of money with the sale of that book and the other books and resources that came after it. Part of what he did with that money was make a gift to Saddleback equal to every dollar he had been paid by the congregation through his years of ministry. Today he and his wife “reverse tithe” – they live on 10% of their income and give 90% away. That’s generosity.

As the first decade of this century came to a close, we read the sobering statistics. Over 10 years there were virtually no job gains. At least two recessions, most notably the one we are in now, has wreaked havoc on the economy and on the income and savings of most people. Over 10% of the working age populationis unemployed. We carry too much debt, partly because our “wants” exceed our abilities but also because the real costs of life have risen beyond our salaries and debt is easy to accumulate. We’re in trouble.

So it is that most non-profit institutions, from colleges to seminaries to local congregations, have found themselves struggling to pay the bills and forced to make very difficult decisions and cuts.

Generosity is a human virtue, not simply a Christian virtue. Christians have an explanation for their generosity – We love because God first loved us; we give because God first gave himself for us – but generosity has never been limited to Christians. The need to give is hardwired into us. But, because of sin, so is the temptation to be greedy. Christians can be as greedy as anyone else.

At any time, particularly in the difficult times in which we are now living, the temptation is to batten down the hatches of our lives, to worry constantly about having enough, to be greedy rather than generous. Rather than giving first, which is a hallmark of generosity, we might instead grudgingly give last if there is anything left.

Any of us involved in congregational life can appreciate the predicament Saddleback Church experienced in December. Any of us serving as pastors understand how difficult it is to ask our people to rise to new heights of generosity. But all of us know that God’s provision will always meet our needs, sometimes only through the path of the generous response of God’s people.

Be generous this new year. Give first. Give joyfully. Give sacrificially. Give proportionately to what you are given. Give intentionally. Trust in God’s provision. Support and encourage one another in your generosity.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, there is so much anxiety and uncertainty in our lives today. We fear that the world is falling down around us, too much is changing, too much seems to be fading away. Give us the grace to resist the temptation to hold back, and fill us with the kind of gratitude that fuels joyful generosity. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Wednesday, January 6th Galatians 5:22-26”

  1. Tina Peterson Says:

    Give us the grace to resist the temptation to hold back….a humble and honest prayer. Thank you.

  2. Sharon Odden Says:

    Thank you, Pastor Kerry! I have opening devotions for our council this month. We ended our year in the red, but not as much as we feared. This devotion is so appropriate for that.

    Thank you for your daily inspiration; I look forward to receiving it at my desk and share it with friends often!

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