Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 93; 150, Deuteronomy 15:1-11, 1 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Matthew 13:24-34a
Deuteronomy is one of those Old Testament books some Christians like to pick and choose from when it comes to identifying sins. We come up with complex academic, theological, and just plain arbitrary reasons to separate the rules we want enforced from the ones we don’t. We cling tightly to sexual sins, but don’t seem to have much problem anymore with usury (charging interest on loans), divorce, or mixed fabrics. Many times the distinction seems to boil down to whether the people committing the sin in question can be identified as “them” rather than “us.”
When’s the last time you heard Christians debating whether we should still observe remission? Since it would cost us money, probably not ever. Remission was the practice of forgiving loans every seven years. And it wasn’t just the act, but the spirit that was important: Deuteronomy warns against denying a loan in year six just because year seven is around the corner. Imagine what incredible relief that sort of financial amnesty meant for the poor. How does it compare to our current attitudes about debt, the poor, and generosity?
Since we follow a Christ who said “give to all who ask of you” (Luke 6:30 and Matt 5:42), why are we more likely to trot out passages about sexual transgressions than Deut 15:7-8 (“Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be’”) or 15:11 (“Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.’”)? Why do we demand religious-based legislation about what people can do with their bodies, but chafe under legislation that touches our wallets to aid the poor?
That sixth year admonition emphasizes how much God desires us to examine and correct our own hearts, even when it doesn’t make financial sense, and to cultivate an attitude of Christ-like generosity. Grace is not an equation like compound interest; the more you give, the more you get.
Comfort: The more generous you are, the more generous you will want to be.
Challenge: Try to think of generosity as something that benefits the giver spiritually as much as it benefits the recipient materially.
Prayer: God of grace and abundance, create in me a clean and generous heart. Amen.
Discussion: What’s the most generous gift someone has given you?
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