Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, July 30, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. This was the seventh message in the series entitled "Living by the Spirit." You can hear a podcast of the sermon on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
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Now, when I was a kid, we didn’t measure summer by any kind of official scientific standard. I mean, it didn’t start at the summer solstice, when we enjoy the most daylight of the calendar year. And it didn’t end at the autumnal equinox, you know, when day and night are each about 12 hours long. Now that may be how it’s defined on the official calendar and in The Farmer’s Almanac, but that’s not how I saw it. Instead, for me, summer started on the first day in June and ended on the last day of August. I mean, June 21 to September 22, give me a break; that’s just wrong. Anyway, using my old, reliable three month pattern, right now we’re about to enter summer’s homestretch. Which also means we’re getting close to the end of this series dealing with living by the Spirit.
And to this point, we’ve had six messages. First, we looked at what living by the Spirit is not. And second, we considered how love is a decision and an obligation. Third, we talked about how Christian joy is grounded in faith and how it strengthens those who suffer and how it must be shared among believers. And then, fourth, we focused on Christian peace and how God has called us to live in harmony with ourselves and with God and with one another. And fifth, we dealt with spiritual patience and how it involves humility and love and faith. And then last week, we looked at kindness and how kindness is part of God’s nature and how it should extend to everybody and how it’s only possible with God’s help. Now there’s where we’ve been.
Of course, I have no idea whether or not bacteria in my gut makes me put some change in the cup of a homeless person. What I do know, though, is that altruism or generosity or goodness directed to others, well, it’s not always easy to do. I mean, suppose I’m at in intersection and a guy is holding up a sign asking for help. And he’s right there at my window. I’m telling you, at that moment, I can think of all kinds of reasons not to give him a dollar. I mean, I’m sitting on my wallet, and it’ll be really hard to get it out, right? And he looks pretty able-bodied to me; helping him will just give him an excuse to not work and I don’t want to be an enabler, right? And I bet he’ll just take that dollar and buy drugs with it; you know, that’s what they all do, right? Sure they do. And so regardless of what’s swimming around my gut, I avoid eye contact and get moving as soon as I can, you know, before the bacteria kicks in. I’m telling you, being generous isn’t easy.
And I’ll tell you, when we take a look at what’s in the Book, I think there are four things we can say about Christian generosity. But before we look at the specifics, let me tell you that, when I read the Scripture, you’re not going to hear the word “generous” used. Instead, it’ll generally be something about being good, but I want you to understand the same Greek word that Paul used in our passage from Galatians was also used in everything we’ll read. And so, having said that, I think there are four things that Paul had in mind when he talked about generosity.