Monday, February 27, 2017

In a generous spirit.. in a spirit of joy...

February 28, 2017
Tuesday, Week Eight, Year I

In a generous spirit.. in a spirit of joy...

Most religions include some kind of conscious giving to God. This can take the form of ritual sacrifices or of explicitly religious support of the poor or of what we recognize as “God’s work,” regardless of who is doing it. But Sirach 35:1-12 says the first of all gifts is to “keep the law.” This is a “great oblation.” We make it when we “observe the commandments,” do “works of charity… give alms… refrain from evil… and avoid injustice.

We have to give something. “Appear not before the Lord empty-handed.” But what gives value to the gift is the attitude of the giver. What God sees in our hands is the expression of our heart. We can’t “buy God.” “Offer no bribes, these he does not accept.” God does not want our gifts but our giving; that is, he wants us. And he wants us loving, because when we love we are like God, which is what we were created to be.

That is why the attitude with which we give counts more than the content. Gifts to God are measured by virtue, not volume. “The just one’s sacrifice is most pleasing….” This doesn’t mean we can’t please God when, as sinners, we do what we can. It means that giving is an act of relationship. If we don’t give with a sincere desire to be in the right relationship with God (and with others) our giving is pleasing to no one. We should remember that to ”have mercy” means to “come to the aid of another out of a sense of relationship.” Christian giving is not condescension; it is an act of recognition: we recognize God as God and Father, our brother as our brother, our sister as our sister. Christian giving is always supporting our family.

We have to give like God: “in a generous spirit… in a spirit of joy…. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means.” God gives All. All he is, and all he has made he offers to us. And he asks for all in return. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” This is what Jesus recognized and praised in the “widow’s mite”:

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.[1]

All. “Sin” is mentioned in the Bible 367 times. “All” appears 4491 times. (”Love” 491 times). Jesus demanded all for All:

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and… in joy goes and sells all and buys that field.” None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.[2]

We can’t outgive God. “For the Lord is one who always repays, and he will give back to you sevenfold,” that is, in perfect measure.[3] Jesus said the same:

“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.”

The measure is proportional, not equal. God’s measure is exponentially higher than ours. People who trust in God’s generosity will discover how great it is. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Meditation: What am I giving to God? Do I give in the same spirit God does?

[1] Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:43-44.
[2] Matthew 13:44-46; Luke 14:33;
[3] For the significance of “seven” see Monday of Week Six above, February 14. 

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