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Greed to Generosity

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 7/14/2019

Enough is one of most spiritually significant questions we wrestle with in life. What is enough? How much is enough? Who has enough? When will I know when I have enough? What do I do if I don’t have enough? This question consumes our energies.

This past week Lara and I wrestled over this question. You know how it is, you’re sitting there watching TV. Every commercial is about something that bigger, better, thicker, stronger, cleaner, softer, longer lasting. Suddenly out of the blue, Lara turns to me, and says, “Jon, I think it’s time we make the ‘switch.’” I was so caught off guard. I was like, “Switch? I’m so happy with everything in my life right now. What could we possibly need to change? I thought you were happy honey…”

And Lara, bless her heart, it was taking so much courage. She said, “I am happy… Just not with our toilet paper.” I was feeling defensive. “What do you mean you’re not happy? I thought as long as we had two-ply toilet paper, we’d live happily ever after?”

Then she explained how we’d been using double size rolls all these years, but now Cottonelle has “Mega-Rolls”. The sheets are bigger, and thicker, and 2x more absorbent! They’re stronger and don’t tear. They’re heavier, yet septic system safe and clog safe. Their softer and cleaner. Residential plumbers prefer it over every other kind.

I was like, “Whatever you want honey.” But then Lara was like, “We’re going to need paper roll extenders.” … “Paper Roll extenders! What’s that?” … “The rolls are too fat to put into our existing dispensers, so we need to go buy this little plastic contraption, and you’ll have to install them!” {I knew it would lead to a honey-do; I just knew it! We looked all over, couldn’t find them…}

So, Lara ordered the little extender thinga-ma-jigs online, and yesterday they came in the mail! Last night we went to Wal-Mart and made “the switch”. When we were unloading the car I was like, “Lara, these rolls are enormous!” She said, “No, those are the paper towels… this is toilet paper.” {all things in their time, wait and see}

Who all has made the big switch? Who hasn’t? So, after I installed the extender, I noticed that now the “Mega Rolls” are too fat to fit into the toilet paper “storage stand.” So now we’re going to need “Storage Stand Resizers.” First World Problems!

Enough. What is enough? How much is enough? Who has enough? When will I know when I have enough? What do I do if I don’t have enough? Our culture has ONE answer to this question of Enough. You don’t have enough, you need “more.” You need something bigger, better, thicker, stronger, larger, wider, cleaner, softer, longer lasting.

The difference between “Enough” and “More” is what the Bible calls Greed. Greed is wanting just a “little bit more” than enough; Greed is wanting a “whole bunch more” than enough. So, let’s talk about enough.

First, there is a Material Aspect to Enough.

Do we strive for contentment? Socrates said, “He who is not contented with what he has, will not be contented with what he would like to have.” If we don’t find contentment with fewer things, why do we suppose we’ll find it with even more things? Materially, how much is enough? And then financially, how much wealth is enough? Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough, whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” Our answer is always the same, “I need more!”

The Apostle Paul wrestled deeply with what was physically/materially “enough.” In Philippians 4:10-12 he says, “I rejoice in the Lord that you renewed your care for me… I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned the secret to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or need. . .”

I wonder how many of us have learned the secret of being content… whether with a little or a lot, whether in need or abundance? Paul wasn’t writing about contentment from within the bubble of a low or middle-class lifestyle. He was writing from prison. In today’s prison you get a little shelter, a little food/water, one-ply bologna sandwiches, a little safety, a little health care. Dental care is they knock your tooth out. There you go. Problem solved. Don’t you see? In Paul’s day you didn’t get to pick Charmin or Cottonelle, you got to pick a corner. The prisons were a virtual sewer, a latrine, a place of disease and darkness. Paul found contentment not in just 1st world accommodations, but in barely 3rd world accommodations. He says, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any/ all circumstances. . .”

The Apostle Paul enjoyed a freedom of service rarely found today. How many of us could say, “I can serve on a little or a lot? I can serve an on empty or full stomach. I can serve in prosperity or need. I can serve despite the circumstances.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a pretty long list of conditions. I’ll bet you do to. Contentment doesn’t have to be about more, more, more. If we could learn to be content with far less, we could be generous with far more.

Second, there is a Spiritual Aspect to Enough.

Do we trust God Himself to be enough to sustain us? When you are in need, do you believe God will always be there for you and never forsake you? In Philippians 4:13, Paul tells us his secret to contentment: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” What Paul is saying is that the spiritual reality of Christ within us should enable us to thrive no matter what physical deprivation comes our way. In Hebrews 13:5 the Bible says it this way, “Your life should be free from the love money. Be satisfied with what you have, for God Himself has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’”

There are few circumstances in our world that are more desperate than being a woman, who is widowed, who has kids, but no supportive family/community. God has a special way of coming alongside the alien, the stranger, the widow, the fatherless, the orphan… In Isaiah 54:4-5 God says to widows, “Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame; don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced. For you will forget the shame of your youth, and you will no longer remember the disgrace of your widowhood. Indeed, your husband is your Maker—his name is the Lord of Armies—and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of the whole earth. . . . I will take you back with abundant compassion. . . I will have compassion on you with everlasting love,” says the Lord your Redeemer.”

In Isaiah 41:17, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.”. In Job 29:12 God’s says, “… I delivered the poor who cried for help, and the fatherless who had none to help him.” Jeremiah 49:11 God promises I’ll keep your fatherless children “alive”; and commands widows, “trust in me!”

What I’m saying is that there is more than just a physical aspect to enough, there is a profound spiritual/relational aspect. If you are the one in need, you should have every confidence that God will supply what is needed. In 1 Timothy 5:5, Paul’s describes how, “The real widow, left all alone, puts her hope in God and continues night and day in her petitions and prayers.” Why pray? In Philippians 4:19 Paul promises, “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” In little or a lot… on an empty or full stomach…. in prosperity or need… whatever the circumstance… It’s been the testimony of Christians through the ages that God provides. Enough is never just a physical calculation, it’s also a spiritual calculation.

Finally, there is a Accountability Aspect to Enough.

Do we believe we are God’s servants? Horace Mann said, “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.” Jesus warned in Matthew 6:24 that we cannot serve God and money.

We have this huge political debate raging right now… except it isn’t just a political, it’s a profoundly humanitarian matter. What would you consider the baseline rights of each and every human being? Citizen or not? What is enough? Is it enough to provide food, water, shelter, clothing, safety, crisis (Good-Samaritan-Only) care, extended healthcare, education, some kind of pathway to stability/hope? What? We often have one definition of “enough” that applies to our needs. Then we have another definition that applies to other’s needs. But what if the tables were turned? What if there is really just the standard of the golden rule—do unto others what you’d have them do unto you? Proverbs 14:31 says, “whoever oppressed the poor shows contempt for their maker”

I saw this story about a couple in Fargo, North Dakota, that owned a Caesars Pizza franchise. One night the couple and their daughters realized that after hours, homeless people would wait until closing, and dig through their dumpster for food. In response, they put a sign up in their window, “To the person going through our trash for their next meal, You're a human being and worth more than a meal from a dumpster. Please come in during operating hours for a couple of slices of hot pizza and a cup of water at no charge. No questions asked.”

Except, if someone comes in and they’re asking for our donation pizzas, they don’t give them a slice, they give them a whole pizza! Though the owner was battling leukemia, they extended their outreach to three area homeless shelters. In just a few years they’d given out 142,000 slices of pizza, that’s 17,812 whole pizzas, or about $70,000 worth of food! There is an old epitaph that says, “What I kept, I lost; what I spent, I had; what I gave, I have.”

God’s commandments are so crystal clear. In Deuteronomy 15:11 God says, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” No one on this planet should go hungry/thirsty/be left to die. Even if someone is your enemy, you shouldn’t neglect their needs. Jesus said, “God causes his sun to rise, rain to fall, on righteous/ unrighteous.” Proverbs 25:21 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.” We’re never allowed to just spiritualize the needs of others away, and imagine we’re exempt from concern. Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

Just now were coming to our time of offering. I would like you to take a moment and revisit our three questions.

First, am I striving for contentment? Is it our intention to be content with far less, and generous with far more? Have we created margin? Offering is a demonstration of true contentment, gratitude and joy.

Second, am I trusting God to provide? Proverbs 11:24 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” The paradox of giving is that there is more than just a physical calculation that’s to be made… there is a spiritual calculation. The one gives freely grow richer; the one who withholds never has enough. Which describes you?

Last, am I freely serving God? [Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19]

Scripture Verses

Ecclesiastes 5:10, Philippians 4:10-13, Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 15:11, 1 Timothy 6:6-19, Proverbs 11:24

Worship Playlist

  • The Lion and the Lamb
  • Who You Say I Am 
  • Behold the Lamb
  • Mighty to Save

Study Questions

Psalm:

"1 Praise the Lord!

How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.2 Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.3 They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever.4 Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.5 Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly.6 Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered.7 They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.8 They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly.9 They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.10 The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away, their hopes thwarted." -Ps. 112

Proverb:

"A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched."- Pr. 28:25


Apply It!

Prayer:

"Lord Jesus, only begotten Son of God, teach me true generosity. Teach me to serve you as you deserve. To give without counting the cost, to fight heedless of the wound, to labor without seeking rest, to sacrifice myself without thought of any reward, save the knowledge that I have done your will. Amen." St. Ignatius of Loyola

"God gives all that I have- I share God with others."

Practice:

Greed is an uncontrolled desire for more. Identify your areas of greed. Diagnose why you are so susceptible in these areas. With the Spirit’s help, combat one of your areas of greed with a specific act of generosity. Practice a week of generous actions.

Resources

Downloads & Resources