The Secret of a Happy Life
Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
In writing these daily reflections, I am very fortunate to work with an excellent editor, Marcus Goodyear, who helps point out where certain changes in content and structure will improve the message. In reading this latest verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I’m wondering if Jesus would mind if I served as his editor, just for this one troublesome verse. Perhaps something like this,
I am in receipt of your latest draft of the Sermon on the Mount. Nice work. Opening with the blessings is very strong, and I like the way you’ve updated several of Moses’ commandments. However, I would like to propose just one tiny change to your comments on giving and lending. I found myself wishing for a bit more clarity. The way you’ve written it seems a trifle ambiguous. So I was thinking of something like this:
Give as you are able to trusted family and friends and lend to those with good references and FICO credit ratings above 740.
I think you’ll agree that these edits will be appreciated by your audience.
Dave Peterson, Editor
Most of us would happily put an X in the generosity box as long as we could be selective about who we give and lend to. Unfortunately, Jesus includes these two words everyone and anyone, and he leaves out the clauses and conditions that we’d hope to see.
In fairness to Jesus, I need to tell you that just a little later on, he will also say, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine.” Jesus does expect some discretion when we consider giving valuable things to others. But even so, as Matthew Henry, the insightful eighteenth century Bible commentator summarizes, “Always be ready to give, and always be ready to lend.“
I’m writing today with my tongue in my cheek, but I do believe that generosity is the secret of a happy life. And I believe that Jesus is very serious about his call to a radically generous lifestyle that is more willing to give and lend than human reason would ever expect. And the exhilarating truth of this can only be known when we “give to everyone who begs from us, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from us.”
Stay generous, my friend.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways is generosity easy for you? In what ways is it more difficult? Do you see evidence of many undeserved blessings in your life, or do you sense that you’ve had to fight and claw your way for everything you’ve got? Where do you sense God is nudging you to an expanded form of generosity?
PRAYER: Gracious and generous Lord, if generosity is the secret of life, then why do I find it hard to give? Why do I hold tightly to what I possess? Why am I so cautious about others in need? If generosity really is the secret of life, then I give you permission today to help me live in accordance with your word. I will give and lend to those you send my way. Amen.
Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.
On Earth As It Is in Heaven
When we pray, do we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and then sit back and wait for someone to show up on the scene and make things happen? As people of faith—at work, in our community, in our home, in our relationships—how do we partner with God to usher in the kingdom of God, right where we are? How can we live the gospel in such a way that we welcome the kingdom of God wherever we show up? What is the impact of doing good work in the places God has called us? What does it mean to do good work, and why does it matter? Does my good work every day make a difference for eternity? After we pray, On Earth As It Is in Heaven, what are practical ways to partner with God in seeing that come to pass, right in the place where we are?