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Gregory of Nyssa: Abundance of annoyances

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:17

“One cannot be always faring well or always ill, for every one’s life is made up of contraries. But if by God’s grace your help should stand by us steadily, we will bear the abundance of annoyances, in the hope of begin always a sharer in your goodness. May you, then, never cease bestowing on us such favors, that by them you may refresh us, and prepare for yourself in ampler measure the reward promised to them that keep the commandments.”

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395) in Letter 14 “To the Bishop of Melitene in Saint Gregory of Nyssa: Collection (London: Aeterna, 2016) 511. He’s the third of the three Cappadocian Fathers. The first was his older brother, Basil of Caesarea (a.k.a. Basil the Great) and the second was their mutual friend, Gregory of Nazianzus.

I managed to read about a dozen of Gregory’s letters online. This one dripped with gratitude. It was written to a fellow minister who had blessed Gregory both materially and spiritually through the ups and downs of service to Christ.

Know anyone like that? I can think of a number of generous people who the minute they hear I have a need, they jump to my aid. Their support inspires me to endure an “abundance of annoyances” because I know they always have my back.

That’s also, at least in part, why I come to gatherings like the CLA Outcomes Conference. I come to encourage others and be encouraged by long-time friends and fellow Christ-followers. Do you have people in your life that you generously encourage?

As we continue to explore “abundance” in church history in the forty days from the resurrection of Jesus to his ascension, my charge to you today is to support richly anyone you know who is willing to endure an “abundance of annoyances” for Christ.

Reach out to them. Ask them if there is anything they need, and then dig deeply to assist them. Your aid will inspire them to stay the course in helping people understand and follow the commandments of Christ despite hardships and difficulty!

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Athanasius of Alexandria: Abundance of words to seduce the simple

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Matthew 6:7

“Let us rise and go to our fathers, and say unto them, “We anathematize the Arian heresy, and we acknowledge the Nicene Council:” for against this is their quarrel. Who then, with ever so little understanding, will bear them any longer? Who, on hearing in every Council some things taken away and others added, but comprehends their treachery and secret depravity against Christ? Who on seeing them embodying to so great a length both their profession of faith, and their own exculpation, but sees that they are giving sentence against themselves, and studiously writing much which may likely by an officious display and abundance of words to seduce the simple and huge what they are in point of heresy? But as the heathen, as the Lord said, using vain words in their prayers, are nothing profited.”

Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373) in “History of Arian Opinions” 2.19 in Saint Athanasius of Alexandria Selection: 5 Books (London: Aeterna, 2016) 274-275. Athanasius is the fourth of the Four Doctors of the Eastern Church to explore on the topic of abundance.

As expected, the theme of abundance in the thinking of Athanasius targets the tact of the heretics that he dedicated his life to battle. They use an “abundance of words to seduce the simple.” He calls them to embrace the outcome of the Nicene Council, which we know as the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325), which reads as follows:

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven; He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen.

I am researching the early church councils as I will teach on the councils in the Scriptures today at the CLA conference in Dallas. I will share material from a manuscript of a forthcoming ECFA Press book. It specifically sets forth a biblical perspective on board governance and reports how the early church councils followed the pattern of the Jerusalem Council.

Often, I feel like I can identify with Athanasius. What irks me most (and likely irked him too) is “treachery and secret depravity against Christ.” The treachery is that people who seem to be “close” to Christ act like they think they know better than to obey His teachings on money. They rationalize disobedience to some points, and in so doing, lead many to a counterfeit faith.

Many went astray in the times of Athanasius and many are going astray today. My generosity (and yours) comes into view as helping people align their lives with the teachings of Jesus on money. Sadly, some will follow, and some won’t. As others before me have noted: those who pick and choose which teachings of Jesus to obey, believe not in Him but in themselves.

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Gregory of Nazianzus: Squirrel

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

“Let us put into practice the supreme and first law of God who sends rain on the just and on the sinners and makes His sun rise upon all alike. To all the earth’s creatures He has spread out land in spacious expanse and springs and rivers and forests; to the winged species He has given air, and to the creatures of the deep, water, and the basic requisites for life to all without stint, subject to no power, restricted by no law, isolated by no boundaries.

On the contrary, He has set out the same necessities amply for all to share yet, for all that, in no way in short supply, thus both bestowing honor by the impartiality of His gift upon the equality of honor within the natural world and displaying the abundance of His own goodness. Yet men squirrel away gold and silver and quantities of soft and superfluous clothes and glittering jewels and similar items that bear the stamp of war and dissension and of the first act of rebellion, and then in their folly arch their brows and refuse to show compassion towards the unfortunate among their kinsmen. They are neither willing to help them with basic necessities out of their superfluity — what perversity! What stupidity!”

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329-390) in Oration 14.25 in The Fathers of the Church: St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Washington D.C.: CUOA, 2003). Gregory of Nazianzus is the third of the Four Doctors of the Eastern Church that we explore on the topic of abundance. He’s also the second of the three Cappadocian Fathers.

What an expression! Gregory calls out those who “squirrel” away for themselves what God intends for enjoyment and sharing, like the rain and sunshine and everything else He supplies. Though culture says to do it, it represents a perversity of God’s design for all He supplies. To follow His instructions is to be “perfect” or consistent with His commands. Don’t exhibit “stupidity.” Enjoy and share “the abundance of His goodness.”

Today I fly to Dallas to speak at the CLA Outcomes Conference in multiple settings and to attend many sessions as a learner. If you are going too, I hope to see you there!

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Basil of Caesarea: Pitiable for his [or her] abundance

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21

“‘What shall I do?’ says the rich man in the parable. Who would not pity a man so beset? Pitiable for his abundance, wretched for his good things present, more wretched still on account of what awaits him. His land brings him not produce, but sighs. He does not lay up for himself fruits, but care, and sorrow, and grievous anxiety. He laments like the poor. Is it not the very same thing that the poverty-stricken man says? What shall I do? Where shall I find food or raiment? What shall I do? You might well have said, I will fill the soul of the hungry. I will open my barns and summon all who are in need. I will imitate Joseph, and cry with a loud voice, All you in want of bread, come to me, and each one take his fill from the gracious gifts of God, as if from a common fountain.

Soul, thou hast much goods laid up: eat, drink, and be merry. What madness! If thou hadst a swine’s soul, what else wouldst thou say to it but this. How thankful oughtest thou be to the Bountiful one, how joyful for the honour given thee, that thou dost not crowd the door of other men, but others occupy thine! But now thou art morose, and avoidest meeting the poor, lest, perhaps, thou be compelled to give something. One reply alone thou knowest how to give: I cannot, I will not give. I am poor. Yes, truly poor thou art, and in need of all things. Poor in love, poor in kindness, poor in faith toward God, poor in eternal hope.”

Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379) in Hom. in illud Lucæ, destruam horrea as recounted in St. Basil the Great compiled by Richard Travers Smith (London: SPCK, 1879). He is also known as Basil the Great, the second of the Four Doctors of the Eastern Church that we explore on the topic of abundance. He’s also one of the three Cappadocian Fathers.

When we see a wealthy man, we don’t often describe him as “pitiable for his [or her] abundance.” That’s precisely his [or her] situation, especially in light of the messages the world tells them.

Last week, a seminary administrator who meets regularly with wealthy givers commented, “The biggest obstacle to generosity I come across is the notion that people with wealth are filled with fear and say they never have enough money.” Or as Basil puts it, they are troubled with “care, and sorrow, and grievous anxiety.” Fear not only hinders generous giving and renders them poor toward God, the result is that they are “poor in love, poor in kindness, poor in faith toward God, poor in eternal hope.” Basil is right. It’s madness indeed!

So why is the rich person “pitiable for his [or her] abundance?” When a person has wealth they are fooled into thinking it sustains them. Every generation faces this. Only God sustains us!

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John Chyrsostom: Spare none of our stores

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6

“Let us then, as receiving great things though we give but little, still give the little that we may gain the great. While it is yet time, let us sow, that we may reap. When the winter overtakes us, when the sea is no longer navigable, we are no longer masters of this traffic. But when shall the winter be? When that great and manifest Day is at hand. Then we shall cease to sail this great and broad sea, for such the present life resembles. Now is the time of sowing, then of harvest and of gain. If a man puts not in his seed at seed time and sows in harvest, besides that he effects nothing, he will be ridiculous.

But if the present is seed time, it follows that it is a time not for gathering together, but for scattering; let us then scatter, that we may gather in, and not seek to gather in now, lest we lose our harvest; for, as I said, this season summons us to sow, and spend, and lay out, not to collect and lay by. Let us not then give up the opportunity, but let us put in abundant seed, and spare none of our stores, that we may receive them again with abundant recompense, through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, world without end. Amen.”

John Chrysostom (c. 349-407) in Homily XXV. John Chrysostom is the first of the Four Doctors of the Eastern Church that we explore on the topic of abundance.

What a conclusion to this sermon! Now is the time of sowing and scattering! Now is the time to sow, spend, and lay out the resources entrusted to us if we want to receive an abundant recompense. We must not collect them. Those who do are ridiculous, that is, deserving of ridicule for their foolishness.

We got permission to use Vincent van Gogh’s “The Sower and Setting Sun” for the cover of The Sower: Redefining the Ministry of Raising Kingdom Resources as it communicates urgency. We don’t know how much time we have, so we must sow while we have opportunity. If you’d like a free PDF copy of the book, reply to this email. I thought of it when took this photo at sunset last night.

Neither Jesus nor the Apostle Paul forces us to sow generously. They merely point us to the rewards of obedience. It’s not crazy behavior, just radically countercultural! Let us “spare none of our stores” so that we reap generously. Or we must just prepare to reap sparingly. The choice is ours. What will you choose?

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Gregory the Great: Speaking of someone else

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” 2 Samuel 12:1-7a

“The poor are to be advised one way and the rich another. To the former, we should offer solace against tribulation, and to the latter, we should make them fear pride… It is possible for a rich [person] to be humble and for a poor [person] to be proud. Therefore, the preacher must quickly adapt words to the life of the listener so as to destroy the pride of the poor all the more sternly (especially if this one is not even humbled by poverty). Likewise, the preacher should gently encourage the rich who are humble (so long as they are not exalted by their abundance). Sometimes, however, even a proud [person] is to be placated by a gentle exhortation, because tough wounds are often softened by gentle mitigation and the rage of a disturbed person is often restored to sanity by the gentle words of a physician… Sometimes when we censure the powerful of this world, it is better to engage them as though we are speaking of someone else. And then, after they have pronounced a just sentence on what they believe to be someone else’s actions, they are to be struck in an appropriate manner with the reality of their own guilt. This way, a mind that is elated by its temporal authority cannot reject a judgment against itself, because it was its own ruling that trampled upon the neck of pride; and it will not be able to defend itself, being bound by the sentence of its own mouth. It was for this reason that the prophet Nathan had come to reprove the king and asked for his judgment as though the case were between a poor man and a rich man.”

Gregory the Great (c. 540-604) in The Book of Pastoral Rule (Crestwood: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2007) 90-92. Gregory is the fourth of the Four Doctors of the Western Church. He wrote this rule as a guide for clergy. This excerpt suggest how to speak to the rich and poor about money. It’s brilliant, and it’s fitting to share after some exceptional meetings with seminary leaders this week in California from whence I returned late last night.

While we must communicate differently with the rich and poor as they face different challenges, this counsel from Gregory the Great regarding how to speak to the rich and powerful really resonates with me. Wanting nothing from them, but rather, something for them, we must in our communications paint pictures that help them take positive steps on their journey. To blatantly tell them what they are doing wrong often does not get us (or them) very far.

So how can we encourage others to take steps that may seem obvious to us but may be unclear to them? For the humble, we must be gentle. With the proud and powerful, we might do well to tell stories like Nathan, the prophet, did with David. In “speaking of someone else” we must not encourage people to take just one step toward obedience, but rather, help them “trample on the neck of pride,” realizing, like David, they have sinned and must change directions immediately.

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Jerome of Stridon: Trample on covetousness

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:32-35

“Your abundance has supported the want of many that some day their riches may abound to supply your want [2 Corinthians 8:14]; you have made to yourself “friends of the mammon of unrighteousness that they may receive you into everlasting habitations” [Luke 16:9]. Such conduct deserves praise and merits to be compared with the virtue of apostolic times. Then, as you know, believers sold their possessions and brought the prices of them and laid them down at the apostles’ feet [Acts 4:34-35]: a symbolic act designed to shew that men must trample on covetousness. But the Lord yearns for believers’ souls more than for their riches. We read in the Proverbs: “the ransom of a man’s soul are his own riches” [Proverbs 13:8]. We may, indeed, take a man’s own riches to be those which do not come from some one else, or from plunder; according to the precept: “honour God with thy just labours” [Proverbs 3:9]. But the sense is better if we understand a man’s “own riches” to be those hidden treasures which no thief can steal and no robber wrest from him [cf. Matthew 6:20].”

Jerome of Stridon (347 – 420) in Letter LXXI.4 To Lucinius. Jerome is the third of the Four Doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of abundance.

Jerome knew God’s Word on the topic of money and wove Scriptures in this letter to Lucinius like a tapestry. If you are in ministry, this letter shows you how to talk to people about money. It reminds us that the Lord yearns for our souls more than our riches and we trample on covetousness when we put His resources to work!

But how does setting the money at the apostles’ feet “trample on covetousness? If we don’t master money, it masters us. If we don’t make it our slave, it enslaves us. We master it and make it our slave by putting it to work to accomplish God’s purposes. We trample on it’s power over us, only when we handle it in accordance with the teachings of Jesus.

Put whatever you possess in a place where no thief can touch it. Store it up in heaven! “Keeping” is not an option. And, if you missed it yesterday, “keeping” is an operative word in a recent Soulcare Anchoress post by my wife, Jenni. It’s simply entitled “Money” and uses the word “keeping” in a powerful way (and shows what the wife of the Generosity Monk thinks about money).

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Ambrose of Milan: So that no one would be without

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8

“When [God] had bestowed the greatest of graces on man, as though he were His dearest and nearest friend, He gave him everything in the world, so that no one would be without the necessities of life and the good life. One of these is the means of providing pleasure the abundance of the earth’s fruits; another is the knowledge of the secrets of heaven, which inflames the mind with love for his fellow men and longing for virtue by which we can reach the summit of divine mysteries. Both are most excellent to have, as a king of the elements, the use of the sea, and to have all the world’s wealth subject to him creatures of air, land and water; to abound in all things without labor or want in the image and likeness of the adorable Creator, living in the greatest plenty, opening a way and advancing along a path by which to reach the palace of heaven.”

Ambrose of Milan (c. 339-397) in Letter 43 to Horontianus containing “Answers to questions on Creation” (FC 26.254-264). Ambrose is the second of the Four Doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of abundance.

Don’t miss the idea Ambrose sets forth that’s consistent with the Apostolic Fathers and continues in the mind of the Four Doctors of the Western Church: “He gave him everything in the world, so that no one would be without the necessities of life and the good life.” Our role atop creation comes with responsibilities!

God’s design is that the material and spiritual abundance He provides is enjoyed and shared by all. Foolish are those who store it up for themselves. Hear this as a warning, lest you meet Jesus having handled wealth otherwise! He fixed us as the crown of creation to steward spiritual and material wealth according to His purposes. “Keeping” is not an option!

Speaking of “keeping”… that’s an operative word in a recent Soulcare Anchoress post by my wife, Jenni. It’s simply entitled “Money” and uses the word “keeping” in a profound way. Read the post for yourself, and I especially commend it to all those who wonder what the wife of the Generosity Monk thinks about money. It’s a “must-read” post!

As for me, I’m privileged to host Think Tank 2018 with senior administrators of 13 seminaries at Fuller Theological Seminary this week in Pasadena, California (pictured above). Each school has an abundance mentality! Keeping nothing back, they share best practices with each other so that all schools flourish for equipping of men and women for lives of ministry and service.

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Augustine of Hippo: A hurtful life

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mark 8:36

“Do you want to have a country cottage? I refuse to believe you want a bad one. You want to get a wife, but only a good one, a home, but only a good one. Why should I run through everything one by one? You don’t want to have a bad shoe, and you want to have a bad life? As though a bad shoe can do you more harm than a bad life! When a bad, ill-fitting shoe starts hurting you, you sit down, take it off, throw it away or put it right or change it, or order not to damage a toe. A bad life, which can lose you your soul, you don’t care to put right. But I can see clearly enough where you delude yourself; a hurtful shoe causes pain, a hurtful life causes pleasure. The first indeed hurts, the second pleases. But what pleases for a time, later on brings much worse pain, while what brings salutary pain for a time, later on brings endless pleasure and abundant, joyful happiness.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in Sermon 339.4 “On the Anniversary of His Ordination” in Essential Sermons, translated by Edmund Hill, edited by Daniel Doyle (New York: New City Press, 2007). Augustine of Hippo is first of the Four Doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of abundance.

Augustine preached this sermon on the anniversary of his ordination as bishop of Hippo. On that day each year, the church hosted a feast for the poor. Sadly, as the people he served flourished, they cared more about having more and better possessions than they did about caring for needy people. Has much changed in modernity? Most people (then and now) choose “a hurtful life” because it “causes pleasure” rather than experience “salutary pain for a time” which later on “brings endless pleasure and abundant, joyful happiness.”

The church in Hippo, located on the northeastern coast of present-day Algeria, wrestled with sacrifice as the pathway for service to others. In that cultural setting, many appear to have equated “showing care for family members” as “giving every earthly pleasure” to loved ones. Frankly, that’s how to ruin your family. He urged them to inconvenience themselves to aid others following the example of Christ, citing 2 Corinthians 8:9. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

Today I fly to Los Angeles and spend three days with leaders of thirteen seminaries at Fuller Theological Seminary. For many years, it’s been a privilege to facilitate a Think Tank annually with senior administrators of Asbury, Covenant, Dallas, Denver, Fuller, Gordon Conwell, Northeastern, Northern, Phoenix, Reformed, Sioux Falls, Western, and Westminster. We learn rich insights from each other. One thing the group has in common with Augustine: they want everyone they serve to know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and shift from amassing possessions to serving people.

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Egerton Gospel: Immeasurable abundance

Today’s post is a perfect reading for a Monday! It celebrates the immeasurable abundance that flows from a fruitful life. Scholars describe Papyrus Egerton 2 as an ancient text that recounts four fragments of stories, one of which is a miracle of Jesus. It that sense, it’s referred to as Egerton Gospel, simply because it represents an early account of Jesus (c. AD 70-120). Below is the reading, Willker’s notes on it, the OT Scripture that it likely parallels, and brief comments from me.

“When a husbandman has enclosed a small seed in a secret place, so that it is invisibly buried, how does its abundance become immeasurable?” And when they where perplexed at the strange question, Jesus, as he walked, stood on the banks of the River Jordan, and stretching out his right hand, He filled it with seed and sowed it upon the ground. And thereupon he poured sufficient water over it. And looking at the ground before them, the fruit appeared.” Papyrus Egerton 2, Fragment 2 Verso.

As Willker’s notes, “Though the fragment cannot be reconstructed sufficiently, the meaning can be found: A small seed in the ground is hidden and invisible. How does its abundance become immeasurable? (By growing and bringing fruit.) To clarify this, Jesus performs a miracle: He walks up to the river Jordan and with the water he gives rise to a spontaneous ripening of fruit. (much, for joy!)

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell it to the Israelites as a parable. 3 Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: A great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colors came to Lebanon. Taking hold of the top of a cedar, he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders. “‘He took one of the seedlings of the land and put it in fertile soil. He planted it like a willow by abundant water, and it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine. Its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out leafy boughs. “‘But there was another great eagle with powerful wings and full plumage. The vine now sent out its roots toward him from the plot where it was planted and stretched out its branches to him for water. It had been planted in good soil by abundant water so that it would produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.’ “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. It has been planted, but will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it—wither away in the plot where it grew?’” Ezekiel 17:1-10

Why cite this on a Monday? What does it have to do with generosity?

Each and every week holds the prospect of fruitfulness for you and me — immeasurable fruitfulness! We never know the impact that can multiply through us as we abide in Christ and drink of the living water that flows from Him.

This ancient papyrus does seems to recount a miracle of Jesus, the Son of Man, as foreshadowed eloquently by Ezekiel. God’s design and desire for each of us is to “produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.”

The prophet proclaims a question from the Sovereign Lord to the vine of each of our lives. Will it thrive? 

If we want to exhibit Christian generosity, then we must abide in Christ and drink the water only He can supply. We must soak in the Word of God, so it nourishes our souls. While most hear and don’t do what it says, we must hear and do.

When we do what it says, we will look different from the world. We will offend the religious and self-righteous, as Jesus ruffled the feathers of the Pharisees and other religious leaders, and we will look like foolishness to the world.

Our generosity will come into view as distinctly Christian. It will look like Christ who held nothing back, who did not show favoritism, who extended mercy and grace to the most undeserving, and much more.

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