Gratitude & Generosity, 26 November 2023

Gratitude & Generosity
Luke 17

Big Idea:
Every day is an opportunity to give thanks for our many blessings.
The year was 2004. I was in San Diego, California at the National Pastor’s Convention at the beautiful Town & Country Resort. Although I barely had a dollar in my bank account, I felt like a millionaire staying that this fancy place. I have many great memories of the event, but one that I likely never forget occurred in a breakout session with Dr. Tony Campolo, a sociologist who has done a lot of work with the poor, especially in Latin America. I don’t agree with everything he believes, but during a Q&A, someone asked, “Dr. Campolo, how can you talk about the poor while we’re staying in this luxurious resort.?”
I was on the edge of my seat! For years, I had struggled with being a USAmerican with virtually unlimited access to clean water, food, and shelter while millions are on the brink of starvation. I had felt some guilt about my religious freedoms knowing I have spiritual siblings imprisoned, tortured, and even martyred by the same faith I possess. What if the money I spent on this conference (actually, it was on someone else’s dime!) was used to print Bibles or feed hungry children? I loved the audacity of this man’s question and then Campolo responded something like this…
For everything there is a season,
                        a time for every activity under heaven.
2          A time to be born and a time to die.
                        A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3          A time to kill and a time to heal.
                        A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4          A time to cry and a time to laugh.
                        A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5          A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
                        A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6          A time to search and a time to quit searching.
                        A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7          A time to tear and a time to mend.
                        A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8          A time to love and a time to hate.
                        A time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

He added something like…
“A time to stay in a fancy resort and a time to live and work among the least of these.
Wealth is an issue of the heart, and our attitude should be one of gratitude and generosity.”
Wow! I thought his response was brilliant, and it has stayed with me for nearly twenty years.
A lot has been said about the diversity of our First Alliance family. That diversity relates to age, ethnicity, education, zip code, spiritual background…and certainly income. Some of you own your home debt-free while others are unhoused. Some arrived in nice, newer vehicles while others wondered if they would have to push theirs to get here today…and still others took the shuttle. The issue of wealth is not what you possess, but what possesses you, and it’s our subject today.
As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Luke 17:11-13)
Leprosy is a terrible disease, one so dreadful that it often required total quarantine…in another village! Perhaps the only thing worse than the physical agony of leprosy was the social toll it took. You remember lockdown three years ago and how lonely and awkward it was for all of us. Imagine being sent away to another village, leaving all of your family and friends and having no way to communicate with them…no FaceTime, e-mail, phone, or even letter. These ten men were desperate.
He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. (Luke 17:14)
Were they healed at that moment in the presence of Jesus? No! One of the fascinating things about Jesus is he rarely healed the same way twice. Sometimes he touched a person, but sometimes they were not present. His instruction to these ten men was simply to go to the priests, the ones who declared people clean or unclean. Departing Jesus’ presence was probably an act of faith, and certainly going to the priest was, since the priest could not touch a leper. “As they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy,” a brilliant miracle!
Have you ever been healed? Have you ever had God answer a prayer…perhaps for a physical healing, but maybe a relational healing, a financial situation, a prayer for a job, car, housing, food, spouse, or child?
We are all blessed. We are all rich, by the world’s standards.
According to the Global Rich List last year, if you have an annual income of $32,500, you are in the top 1% of global earners. This does not mean you’re in the top 1% in the USA, but globally, you are among the world’s richest 1%. If you earn $16/hour, that’s you! That’s most of us. If you earn $12,000 or $1000/month, you’re in the top ten percent!
Even if you have zero income, you are here today, have clothes, food, access to shelter, freedoms many in the world would envy, and greatest of all the opportunity to have a relationship with the Creator of the universe! You are blessed!
In our text for today, these ten men were blessed. Their lives were transformed from outcasts to recipients of healing and wholeness.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” (Luke 17:15)
One out of ten.
He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:16)
One out of ten gave thanks. Luke tells his readers he was a Samaritan, a half-breed, a despised one, yet he was another example of a “good” Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.” (Luke 17:17-19)
We always need an attitude of gratitude. This isn’t just a November thing. I hope you were able to celebrate Thanksgiving this past week. It’s one of my favorite days of the year (despite spending it in Germany this year!). It’s a day to pause and give thanks…to God, and maybe others, too.
The challenge for many of us is the pause. We’re so busy. We’re not only busy in work and entertainment and parenting and activity, we’re busy comparing ourselves to others.
Comparison kills. Our screens scream at us every day…look at that car, that vacation photo, that new outfit, that new gadget, that house, that beautiful person, that…
We’ve been blessed. You’ve been blessed.
We need to count our blessings…daily. I have a friend who used social media to list his blessings…I think it was five per day. Think about your blessings.
Researchers have discovered the power of gratitude. When we focus on what we don’t have, it’s easy to become discouraged, discontent, and even depressed. When we pause and give thanks, the opposite occurs. As usual, “science” confirms the truth of the ancient scriptures. King David declared,
I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. (Psalm 7:17, NLT)
Paul wrote,
Always be joyful. 17 Never stop praying. 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6, NLT)
The Bible is filled with instructions to give thanks. It’s also filled with instructions to give. Remember,
wealth is an issue of the heart, and our attitude should be one of gratitude and generosity.
We are to give thanks, but we can also give. We can share. We can take what we have and be generous. Maybe it’s something as simple as a smile or a kind word. It might be taking someone out for coffee. Generosity might look like time, truly listening to someone’s story rather than being distracted by your phone.
We’ve all been blessed to be a blessing. The one thing we must never do with our gifts is hoard them. Jesus famously said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35b, NLT)
As I sat in that San Diego resort all those years ago, a sense of relief and mission came over me. I was relieved because I didn’t have to go home, sell my clunker of a car, and ride a bicycle to work in the winter snow! I didn’t have to feel guilty about the blessings I had received. Instead, I needed to have an attitude of gratitude. I also had a mission of generosity. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. I love to give. I love to give to First Alliance Church because I know every dollar is invested carefully in God’s Kingdom. It’s a joy to support the work here. As our income grew with Heather’s new job, we’ve been able to give even more. We’ve had occasions to take faith-filed risks financially, and it’s exciting! You can’t outgive God!
In this season of Thanksgiving (before Amazon and the mall begin telling you about all of the things you “need!”), let’s commit to being grateful and generous rather than greedy and fearful.
Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards. Jesus said if we’re faithful in the small things, more will be given to us (Matthew 25). You may recall a young boy who only had a small lunch of bread and fish, yet when he was generous, thousands were fed…and he probably had the day of his life!
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38, NLT).
Video: Extend Hope (Alliance Christmas Offering)
Wealth is an issue of the heart, and our attitude should be one of gratitude and generosity.

Even blogger Seth Godin came to this conclusion!
I pray that as we enter the season of consumerism, we will experience contentment, gratitude, and generosity.
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