The Giving Father
“Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth and every tree that has seed in its fruit, you have them for food.”
That’s God the Father, he says “I have given.” One would be hard-pressed to find a better description of our Father in heaven than this: “I have given” This he said on the sixth day of creation after all was complete. He had given the Sun, the moon an the stars. He had given the sky and the sea, the dry ground and the heavens. He had given life to the birds, the fish, the things that creep upon the ground, and to the very first humans.
And in this particular passage he says “I have given you every plant yielding seed and every fruit with seed in it.” Seed. In that, you can see how he was thinking about the future. The things that grow which they would eat would reproduce This design feature made the plants and trees the gifts that kept on giving. We take this for granted, but we depend on it every single year for our survival.
He was thinking far far into the future for the perpetuation of race when gave seeds. But he also took care to provide us with quality. He speaks of plants in the plural and trees in the plural. He made many different sorts of plants for us to eat…. packed with many different flavors, so that we could take sustenance with joy. There’s pungent flavors of onion and garlic; sweet and sparkly flavors like orange and strawberry; Earthy flavors like potato and rutabaga; Hot flavors like Peppers; rich flavors like banana and avocado and coffee and cocoa. God gave us all of these wonderful flavors as well as tastebuds to enjoy them. He could have made all of our food bland and flavorless. He could have given us one type of plant that produces flavorless nutrient cubes, but he was interested in more than simply sustaining life, but also making it enjoyable.
Then there’s the other stuff he’s given us. Our brains, our ability to think and learn, a sense of humor, and other people to laugh with; other people to love and care for; other people who care for us and help us along. It is really rather astounding when you think about all of the people: talented, funny, loving people God has given us to lighten our load and make our days brighter. This is a good life that we have been given!
Sometimes however, when we get too narrow, and our minds go into a sort of spiral and all we see is darkness, we forget the good; we forget all God has given us. As this happens we can begin to imagine that we are all alone in the world; that we have no God to dare for us, and furthermore whatever we have gained we have done it for ourselves. Sometimes we like to tell our tale of woe; of our scratching and clawing and the great epic struggle we made to get where we are and how we did it all by ourselves and no one helped us; not even God.
Of course in order for this to really work, we have to forget that God created us with what aptitude we have and we only discovered it and tapped into he. We have to forget also the centuries of learning that he has allowed to continue and multiply, as well as the 1000’s of great shoulders of people smarter than us which he has provided us to stand on. We forget about the peace that he has permitted to reign in our land so that we have the freedom to explore our options.
This is of the most basic and common temptations that we face is to cut God out of our view of the way things are and start imagining that we we are self-made and self-sustaining. Psalm 14:1-3…Describes this situation.
“The fool says in his heart, there is no God…. the Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt.”
That was accurate the day it was written and is accurate today. This is why people of today are often so sad and darkened in understanding. They have told themselves they are on their own, that their future is completely in their hands and they can expect no help from God. All of us dip a toe into this sort of thinking from time to time, and we need to be disabused of it.
We have to break out of this spiral. We have to return to seeing things as they truly are. As the Psalm I quoted says “God looks down from heaven on the children of man and there are not who understand.” He saw the problem. The problem was the sin we were born with. The reason we go dark, the reason we have trouble seeing how God has given to us, the reason we cannot rejoice in our lives even though they are actually pretty great is because we are inhibited by our sinful nature. Here’s where the giving God has given even more.. he gave his only so. He would enter the godless spiral of darkness with taunts and jeers swirling around him. In a sense he became a black hole for all of our sins.
He took our place in the judgment. Because of this, we who believe in him have no cause to be so dark and dismal, even though there are times when we might be called to suffer we have no cause. Because the cards are not stacked against us. They are stacked for us. No matter what hand we may have been dealt and now matter how the play seems to be proceeding, we will ultimately win. In today’s Epistle lesson, Paul the Apostle writes:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
If He was willing to give us that which is most precious to him: His only Son, wouldn’t he also care for our daily needs? But there’s even more: when our hearts are united with this giver God, when we receive the forgiveness he offers through Son, a restoration of sorts has begun. Back to the Genesis Text now. It says “So God created man in his own Image.” We have seen what God is like today haven’t we? He is a giving God. We are meant to reflect this aspect of God in our lives. We are meant to be giving like he is.
And you know this. Don’t you find it a joy when you give something of yourself? Like your time to colleague who is struggling? Or some important and timely help someone might need. Have you not had the experience of helping someone and walking away feeling refreshed? That’s because you are acting in the way that God meant you to act. You are a reflection of the God who is giving. God is generous. You were meant to be generous. You can also afford to be generous, because you have a God who will graciously give you all things.
In about a week or two, I’m going to want you to check your mail box. You’re going to get an important mailing from Life in Christ. In that mailing you will be asked to reevaluate what you’re giving to the work of this congregation. For you see, for some reason, I don’t know why, offerings have declined a bit in the last three years. Probably for demographic reasons. Some can no longer give what they once did and it’s time for others who have not yet thought about giving to start. I haven’t talked like this to you for 8 years. But now I am.
I suppose we could cut some things and try to make our church run on the cheap…. but I don’t think you’d like the cuts. We haven’t exactly been extravagant in our spending. The church counsel has been very conscientious and careful in this regard.
As those who are having the image of God restored by the work of God’s Spirit, I think we need to start thinking about how we can be more of a reflection of Him. He really spared no expense when it came to us. He didn’t try to do things on the cheap. He made strawberries taste marvelous. He made the sky a pleasing shade of blue. He made the air smell sweet after a rain, he made life eternal. I suppose he could have withheld some of his Fatherly Divine goodness and made everything gray and flavorless and temporal. Oh we’d survive for a time. But it would be nowhere near as superb to live in this world he gave us and not nearly as wonderful as the hope for the world to come.
God didn’t mess around. He gave us his best. He deserves our best. And this is not merely some sentiment I share. This is the precedent of the called people of God. Through the centuries, they have sought to give their best. This is clearly reflected in Israel’s worship: when they made animal sacrifice the offered not the weak or the sick or the anemic which they wouldn’t dare eat, but the best. When they offered grain or money or spice or anything they gave it off the top not from the gleanings. They gave the first portion to the Lord. The Lord taught them to do this. We should seek to do the same. Giving thanks by offering the fruits of our labor will help us keep our heads on straight and remember how Good God is…. and avoid the dark spiral. So be thinking about this. Be prepared to rethink your giving AMEN