After hearing a sermon about money this money, I decided to do a re-post from 2007.
I once made the mistake of calling friends frugal when they intentionally reducing the amount of food they served our group in order to save money. I think our friends did not understand the cultural value of celebration around a meal and how generosity would have communicated so much love.
Our friends were insulted and thought I was calling them stingy. Thanks to my wife, we managed to work it out. And, perhaps, providing them with a gift of a simple ride to the airport helped as well.
Mark Buchanan’s eloquent words in The Rest of God express my heart, “Generous people generate things.” He continues on pages 83-84:
And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful.They’re richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them.
Not so the stingy. Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. . . Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. . . . Because they are convinced there isn’t enough, there never is.
This all relates to Sabbath-keeping. Generous people have more time. That’s the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away–who treat time as gift and not possession–have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They’re always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. . . .
I don’t think my friends were stingy when I called them frugal. It was clearly a cultural misunderstanding. But, I guess in the matter we were discussing, I don’t think they were being generous either. My daughter, a server at a local restaurant, once picked up the bill for three friends who came in to eat a few weeks ago. She paid the full amount and received no discount or complimentary meal for them. She felt like being generous. Why? Well, according to my friend, she said that she had learned it from her dad. Wow, what a compliment! By the way, she did get the biggest tip of her young career from the friends!
Buchanan says, “The taproot of generosity is spiritual”, and cites the example of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:5. He makes the following suggestion:
Give yourself first to God. Stop, now, and give yourself–your breath, your health or sickness, your thoughts, your intents, all of who you are–to him. And your time, that too. Acknowledge that every moment you receive is God’s sheer gift. Resolve never to turn it into possession. What you receive as gift you must be willing to impart as gift. Invite God to direct your paths, to lead you in the way everlasting; be open to holy interruption, divine appointment, Spirit ambush (and ask God to know the difference). Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” Proverbs says, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Surrender to his purpose with gladness. Vow not to resist or resent it.
Give yourself first to God.
Now the hard thing: give yourself to others. Enter this day with a deep resolve to actually spend time, even at times seemingly to squander it, for the sake of purposes beyond your own–indeed that occasionally subvert your own (remember the good Samaritan?). That person you think is a such a bore but who always wants to talk with you: Why not really listen to him? Why not give him, not just your time, but yourself–your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness?
In God’s economy, to redeem time, you might just have to waste some.
Try this for a week, giving of yourself first to God and then to others. Be generous with time.
See if your world isn’t larger by this time next week.
May I practice generosity this week! I need to begin by letting go of . . . and giving . . .
Buchanan (The Rest of God) explains how Deuteronomy grounds the Sabbath in the liberation of the people of God from their taskmasters in Egypt or as he says:
Don’t revive what God has removed. 89
Because that’s what the refusal to rest amount to: living as though taskmasters still hover and glower, ever ready to thrash us for the smallest sign of slowing down. It is to strive and toil as though we have no choice, as if we’ll be punished otherwise. 90
To refuse the Sabbath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom. It is to resume willingly what we once cried out for God to deliver us from. It is choosing what we once shunned.
Taskmasters despise rest. They create a culture where rest must be stolen, savored on the sly, and of course then it’s not rest: worry over getting caught plunders rest’s restfulness. 91
Taskmasters are masters of half-truth. They couch their harangue in just enough reality that the whole thing has the ring of authenticity. It’s true in part, what they say: there is no end of things to do. I am a touch on the lazy side and disguise this with busyness. There is a crowd of people disappointed with me, who find me, by turn, indecisive, despotic, timid, rash, evasive, blunt, foolhardy, wise in my own eyes, foot-dragging, impulsive. I do procrastinate overmuch and at the same time make too many snap decisions. Most of my life is unfinished. Many of my efforts are slapdash and slipshod. 92-93
But thank God that God could care less about our rights. What God cares about, and deeply, is our needs. And it’s this simple: you and I have an inescapable need for rest.
The rest of God . . . is not a reward for finishing. It’s not a bonus for work well done.
It’s sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that’s never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we’re allocated at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could. 93
I have learned a little bit about the importance of resting when my body began to shut down after neglecting the rest God offers and prescribes. As I move out of this “God-imposed rest” into more activity and service, I do not want to go back under the old taskmasters and their half-lies. God has set us free–may we live in the freedom (of the Sabbath rest) He offers!
Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God points out that Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 give two different reasons for the Sabbath. Exodus invites to join God in rest as he originally did on the 7th day of creation. He says:
. . .we mimic God in order to remember we’re not God. In fact, that is a good definition of Sabbath, imitating God so that we stop trying to be God. . . .Sabbath-keeping involves a recognition of our own weakness and smallness, that we are made from dust, that we hold our treasures in clay jars, and that without proper care we break.” 87
We think we’re the exception, the one for whom busyness will translate into fruitfulness. . . .–we think because our industry and ingenuity seem boundless, we can also figure out a way around our God-imposed need for stillness. We can’t. The need is not conjured away by medication, technology, discipline, cleverness, sheer willfulness. 88
God commands that we imitate him in order to discover that we’re not him, and that we need him. 88
Well, I know Buchanan is correct because I have tried to live life without rest and stillness and it eventually caught up with me. When I allowed myself to get out of a rhythm of silence and rest for even one week (which I have done in the last week), I pay the price–tension in my body, critical attitudes, selfishness. I have to be honest, getting a little older has helped since that has forced me to slow down. But, the battle continues–pride keeps rearing its ugly head telling me that I can do more, that I don’t need rest or silence, that people will be impressed by the volume of work I can do. Thanks for the reminder today that I really do need you–help me not to miss you as I live this day!!