For many of us in churches it is, or will be, stewardship season. This is a good time to consider our practices of generosity and discipleship. In fact, these concepts are inextricably intertwined – to be a good disciple means to live a life of generosity, and to live generously helps us become better disciples.
In John 10, Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he encouraged people – his disciples, the crowds in synagogues, in the hills, and along the roads, Pharisees, tax collectors, friends and enemies – to live abundantly, generously. This summer the Revised Common Lectionary had texts both warning us what our lives will look like if we do not share everything we have been given (given, not earned), and what it looks like to share all that we have and all that we are.
Whether Hebrew prophets, Paul and other apostles, or Jesus, the message is consistent – there is a big, generous, overflowing life to participate in, but like the manna in the desert, if one tries to hold onto or hoard it for oneself, it rots. There are several points here – 1) God gives us everything we have – it does not belong to us, 2) God gives to us because God loves us and wants us to be taken care of, 3) God has specifically called us to steward what we have been given, 4) God tells us that part of stewardship is making sure those around us are also cared for, given what they need out of what God has given to all of us. A life of abundance means a life together where no one gets overlooked.
Being generous is not just about food, clothing and shelter, it is also about seeing each other, including each other, comforting one another when someone is hurt, grieving, or has messed up. We see it in the Bible as feeding the hungry, caring for and healing the sick and injured, visiting the prisoner, welcoming the stranger, sharing what we have, sharing in feasts with the whole community, forgiveness.
The common element in all of these actions is that they cannot be done alone – these are all activities that involve two or more people. To live an abundant life means to live a life with others. As we think about how we will give in this stewardship drive, or just as everyday disciples, these are our stretch goals – give a little more financially, be better listeners so that we might know what is going on in the lives of those around us, and respond by spending time – feeding, visiting, welcoming, work to be graceful to someone who has messed up, engage in community fellowship.
Go out and live life abundantly. That’s what Jesus tells us, over and over. He sent his disciples, and we continue to be sent in the name of Christ to share love and life throughout the world.