Not knowing where your next meal is coming from is a scary way to live. Not knowing where you will be next loved is also a very scary way to live. Having more than we need and becoming selfish with it is a scary way to live.
We know from Jesus that fear is one of the least productive motivations for good choices. Having trust leads us to much better choices. Most astounding about those of us who live with plenty is that the more we have, the more insecure and the more motivated by fear we become.
God has promised us that we will always have what we need. Most of us live as if that promise is dependent upon us rather than God. So just like in the Scriptures this weekend, when we are asked to share beyond what we believe is reasonable, we get scared. Instead of being generous, as God asks, we start calculating the cost and the probability of the generosity to which we are being called. We try to use our wisdom rather than God’s wisdom.
The way we calculate how something will work out is always limited by our own understanding and logic. Our own beliefs always warp that understanding and logic about what is true. So for us to begin to trust that what God says is true, we have to begin to believe what God has told us is true. What beliefs do we need to examine so that we can always give God the benefit of the doubt rather than hold back out of fear?
Most of us aren’t used to living with what we need. We’ve lived for so long with what we need, what we want, and even more. We tend to cushion things so we never have to come up against the what-ifs that make us fearful. What if I were the one who depended on someone else’s generosity for me to have what I need? What if my generosity caused me to be in a situation where I couldn’t have everything I wanted? What might I think it says about me to be dependent on other people? Does Jesus have any guidance for us about generosity, plenty and scarcity?
Jesus gives us the example of the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. He tells us that they are well cared for and don’t do any kind of work to earn their way. God provides for their every need. God promises us that He has us in the palm of His hand and that He will never abandon us. I wonder if maybe you have any experiences where what you thought was so little ended up to be so much?
I asked the parents who are members of our church communities and our families to stand up and give witness to all of their experiences of the plenty that God produces from so little. Any parent can tell you that there are moments when they’re raising their children, trying to feed and clothe them, giving them the time and attention they need, when they feel they have so little to offer and are drained of energy. All it takes is one smile from one of their children or a “thank you” that’s unexpected or the gratitude of an older child who suddenly realizes the wisdom and sacrifice of their parents. Many of us are called to be generous beyond our wildest imagination and think that we will be spent if we do what is being asked of us. But we realize that there is more to us than we have known, and we can do grander things than we thought.
Sometime this week, each of us will have a choice to make about whether we believe and trust God’s wisdom or our own. Will we trust that God can use the little that we have to give to bear much fruit, or will we simply refuse to take the first step out of fear?
Try it. You’ll like it!
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.