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Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19; Mark 12:28-31
“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #8 Be Generous”
November 1, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
You’ve probably all heard about the burglar who walked into a quiet little house at the end of a road.
He was stealing diamonds when he hears, “Jesus is watching you.”
The guy freaks and turns around, seeing nothing he goes back to stealing diamonds. And again he hears,
“Jesus is watching you.”
He turns around again and this time sees a parrot in a corner cage saying, “Jesus is watching you.” The guy gets all embarrassed about freaking out over a little parrot and says, “Who do you think you are?”
The bird replies, “Moses.”
“What kind of idiot names their bird Moses?”
“The same kind of idiot who named their Pitbull Jesus.”
Sorry about that. But there just aren’t a lot of good jokes out there about “stealing”. In fact, when I Googled “Jokes about stealing”, what came up was a ton of articles about professional stand-up comics stealing jokes from other comedians.
That, all by itself, says something significant about our culture’s understanding of what’s OK and what’s not.
We have invested almost-two-months looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’” And we saw that the first four of the Big Ten are about that. Let’s just take a second and name those first four:
- You shall have No OTHER gods – anything other than God that we allow to take first place in our lives is out of order!
- You shall Make no IMAGES – any image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
- HOLY be Thy name – God’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
- Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence
These first four Commandments are all about that most important one! Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without fail – have no other gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence! We are re-stating this every week because without our remembering it, even the next six commandments can be wrongly emphasized.
And then Jesus’ goes a little deeper: In the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
That’s what the next six Commandments are about. How do we love our neighbors?
- We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
- We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
- We are to be FAITHFUL in our marriages – and in every relationship
- And …
Today we look at Commandment No. Eight. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not steal.” How do we love our neighbors? Do not steal from them!
I considered two ways to go about this Commandment:
- Talk about all the ways we steal without even recognizing that we are, in fact, stealing:
- Eating a grape in the produce section of Rosauers
- Not declaring our “tips” on our Income Tax forms
- Not leaving a healthy tip on the table at a restaurant
- We steal every time we take from someone without paying a fair price/wage
- So, we also steal by not giving our best effort
- We rob our neighbors of dignity by not paying respect, giving honor
- We rob our neighbors of value by not offering polite hospitality
- We rob our neighbors of health by not providing out of our abundance to care for their absence
- Or we could talk about ways to NOT steal, lifestyles and life-choices of generosity:
- In the Old Testament we find God’s expectations that farmers would leave some good grain or produce in the field or vineyard so that the poor might come and glean some food for their families (look at the book of Ruth as a prime example)
- “Honesty is the best policy” may not be a Bible verse, but it is certainly a biblical ethic so that we ought to be open and not hide anything from those around us (look at the story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5)
- Generosity in all things makes us the opposite of stealing thieves.
- Remember what I said at the beginning of this message about what popped up when I Googled “jokes about stealing”? This is why we pay a little extra for the license to print words to songs, or to show movies; this is why, in print at least, I try to give credit to sermon pieces.
- It is wrong to steal material property, intellectual property, software property, dignity, personal value, or human rights.
In Deuteronomy 11-25 (that’s 15 chapters) we are given laws and regulations and rules after laws and regulations and rules, about how to love our neighbors. And in a section about how to live with those who are in poverty (15:10) we hear the Lord say, “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”
Most of II Corinthians 8 & 9 are Paul’s instructions to the Church about generosity. You will recognize this verse: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:6-7)
Generosity quenches the desire to steal. When we go out to eat, ready to put a 25% tip on the table, we will look for ways to compliment our wait-person. When we go to a garage sale, hoping for a chance to bless someone, we’ll give a little more than the asking price for that thing we don’t really need anyway. When we come to a family reunion, wanting to offer forgiveness, we’ll be ready to give grace and kindness before we grump and criticize.
Being a generous person requires having a generous spirit. That means being filled with God’s Holy Spirit, being submissive to Christ as Lord, following Jesus as God’s only means of salvation from the tyranny of ego and self-centered service.
Yes, we are still sinners. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of “stealing”, we give glory to God, we honor our neighbor, we respect the life that we encounter, and act generously to those around us.
Remember why God give us these commandments:
- To shine a light on how much we need a Savior
- To slow down our selfish desires to cheat each other
- To show us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness
And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better. “For God so loved the world that He so-super-generously-gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”, because it was “while we were still sinning that Christ so-super-generously died for us.”
Do you need to believe this Good News today? Are you at a place where you are understanding this truth for the first time? Or even for the 100th time? It’s as simple as saying, “Thank You Jesus, I do believe. Help me, today, with where I don’t believe enough.”
Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got; in Malachi 3:10 – this Old Testament prophet tells us that we steal from God by not giving His church a full 10% tithe of our income – God even dares us to test His faithfulness to us by trusting our faithfulness to Him.
and love your neighbor as yourself – give honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful! Give generously!
We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!
We have heard plenty of debates over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.
Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever.
Psalm 119:174 speaks our prayer: “I long for your salvation, Lord, and your law gives me delight.” Amen.
The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 6.