The following illustrations is about giving material gifts and money. In line with this, you may also like my sermon series on generosity. You can start by visiting the first of the series; Ministry of Generosity
Three Kinds of Givers
There are three kinds of givers: the flint, the sponge, and the honeycomb. Which kind are you? To get anything from the flint, you must hammer it. Yet, all you get are chips and sparks. The flint gives nothing away if it can help it, and even then only with a great display. To get anything from the sponge, you must squeeze it. It readily yields to pressure and the more it is pressed, the more it gives. Still, one has to squeeze it. To get anything from the honeycomb, however, one must only take what freely flows from it. It gives its sweetness generously, dripping on all without pressure, without begging or badgering. The honeycomb is a renewable resource. Unlike the flint or the sponge, the honeycomb is connected to life; it is the product of the ongoing work and creative energy of bees. If you share like a honeycomb giver your life will be continually replenished and grow as you give.
When we share we freely give and we acknowledge that all we have is on loan and others have as much right to the things of God’s creation as we do.
Keith Wagner, But, I Need It!
I was intrigued to read recently of a family that put up a hummingbird feeder with four feeding stations (similar to one that hangs outside our kitchen window). Almost immediately it became popular with the hummingbirds that lived in the area. Two, three, or even four birds would feed at one time. The feeder would be refilled at least once a day.
Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. The feeder needed filling only about once a week. The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male bird had taken over the feeder as his property. He was now the only hummingbird who used it. He would feed and then sit in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approached his feeder. Guard duty occupied his every waking hour. He was an effective guard. The only time another bird got to use the feeder was when the self-appointed owner was momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.
That hummingbird was teaching a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he forfeited his freedom. He was no longer free to come and go as he wished. He was tied to the work of guarding his feeder, his STUFF. He was possessed by his possession
Making the Situation Worse
When I was a kid, I was often ravaged by poison ivy. The key to poison ivy, once you have it, is not to scratch. Restraining yourself is hard, for your skin itches and you want relief. But scratching only makes poison ivy worse.
Avarice works the same way. We get infected, and we want to scratch, although we know we shouldn’t do so. Possessing more and more promises relief, but only makes the situation worse. We keep scratching, but it’s no solution.
Jesus issues a warning, a warning inspired by a squabble over inheritance, but one that all of us need to hear. He says: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Clarence Jordan’s translation of this verse brings out its original earthiness. Here’s what Jesus says according to Jordan: “You all be careful and stay on your guard against all kinds of greediness. For a person’s life is not for the piling up of possessions.”
In these few words, Jesus rejects much of what keeps our society humming. He warns us against greed, avarice, the desire to possess more than we need, more than we can use, more than we want.
Charles Hoffacker, Avarice: The Disease and Its Cure
The Dollars Are in the Way
Henry Ford once asked an associate about his life goals. The man replied that his goal was to make a million dollars. A few days later Ford gave the man a pair of glasses made out of two silver dollars. He told the man to put them on and asked what he could see. “Nothing,” the man said. “The dollars are in the way.” Ford told him that he wanted to teach him a lesson: If his only goal was dollars, he would miss a host of greater opportunities. He should invest himself in serving others, not simply in making money.
That’s a great secret of life that far too few people discover. Money is important. No question about that. But money is only a means by which we reach higher goals. Service to others. Obedience to God. God comes to the rich man and says, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” The answer was clear. The rich man had put his trust in things. Now he was leaving these things behind.
King Duncan, www.Sermons.com, Collected Sermons
Rich in Things, Poor in Soul
This is how I see our situation today: We’re killing ourselves on junk food – we watch mindless drivel on TV with vulgar displays of sexuality and horrific scenes of violence; we listen to endless chatter on the radio with never-ending conflict and criticism; we chase after every conceivable form of entertainment and pleasure; all the while, coming up empty and, ironically, craving for more.
We’re like children in a video arcade – no matter how many quarters or tokens you give them, when the last game’s over, they always ask for “just one more.” There’s no end to it. In the words of Harry Emerson Fosdick, we’re “rich in things and poor in soul.”
What’s the answer? The answer is that we need to get back to the basics and re-establish our priorities. In a word, we need to put God first. We need to follow the Great Commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:37-39) It’s as simple as that: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Mt. 6:33)
Philip W. McLarty, The Parable of the Rich Fool
How Wealthy Are We?
From the standpoint of material wealth
, we Americans have difficulty realizing how rich we are. Robert Heilbroner, who has written dozens of books on the subject of the economy, suggest that we go through a little mental exercise that will help us count our blessings. Imagine doing the following, and you will see how daily life is for more than a billion people in the world.
1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blanket and pads for beds.
2. Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.
3. Empty the pantry and the refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
4. Dismantle the bathroom, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.
5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.
6. Place your “house” in a shantytown.
7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss because now none of you can read anyway.
8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.
9. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a midwife in charge instead of a doctor.
10. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which one third will go to the landlord and one tenth to the money lenders.
12. Lop off twenty-five or more years in life expectancy.
By comparison how rich we are! And with our wealth comes responsibility. We should use it wisely, not be wasteful, and help others.
The list comes from economist Robert Heilbroner
If thou art rich, thou art poor, for like an ass whose back with ingots bows, thou bearest thy heavy riches but a journey, and death unloads thee.
Definition: Ingot – A lump of metal, esp. of gold, silver or steel, cast in convenient form (usually oblong) for transport and storage.
Money Is Like Sea Water
Someone asked John D. Rockefeller (of all people) “How much wealth does it take to satisfy a person?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.” The Romans had a proverb: “Money is like sea water; the more you drink, the thirstier you become.”
Carveth Mitchell, The Sign in the Subway, CSS Publishing Company
Covetousness, or the desire to have more than one has (not necessarily through envy of somebody else) not only leads to strife but also expresses a fundamentally wrong philosophy of life, according to which possessions are all that really matter.
I.H. Marshall, New Bible Commentary, Revised (1970): Luke, p. 908