After all, aren't WE supposed to be the ones GIVING "generosity" and "kindness" to our neighbors as we love them through our various vocations?
You bet we are, but there's something about being on the reverse and receiving end of our neighbor's own "good works" and their own generosity and kindness to us that I think we should be mindful of based on what the Word of God says about it.
Personally, I've never been one who accepts generosity, gifts, and kindness from others very well.
In fact, everyone knows that I often joke about having a "guilt complex" when it comes to such people and what they have done or continue to do for me and my family.
Why is that though? What is it about me that makes it so difficult to simply say "Thank you!" and be done with it? Why do I always feel like I have to "keep score" or "pay them back" somehow and in some way down the road? Most importantly, is such a feeling and response sinful?
It's not exactly in sync with our Church Calendar, but here's an excellent sermon I found that was preached by Rev. Esko Murto in Concordia Seminary's Martin Luther Chapel in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada for a Divine Service on December 9th, 2015 that addresses this subject for us.
The sermon text was Luke 9:1-6. How does a Bible passage on the "Sending of the Twelve" have anything at all to do with accepting generosity and kindness from others? I thought the same exact questions myself. Here's the answer...
The sermon today focuses on the verses 3 and 4 in today’s Gospel: Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
Why does our Lord give this kind of a marching order for his disciples? These are the ones he is sending like sheep among the wolves – and to make things worse, so it seems to us, he specifically orders them not to take a staff for self-defence, no bag, bread or money to keep them sustained, not even two tunics to help them stay warm in case they would need to spend the night outdoors.
Perhaps he is setting an example here? Showing that those serving him ought not to expect much in the way of possessions and especially not to be greedy for worldly things, but should accept a humbler, more meager standard of living, showing in their own lives that they do not gather treasures on earth, but rather seek only to increase their heavenly riches?
Yet none of the things Christ lists here could be considered particularly extravagant or luxurious. He is not talking about magnificently ornamented chariots or splendid robes, rich foods or money bags heavy with gold. All the things he lists are parts of ordinary travel gear, the kind of things any sensible man would take when heading out. The things our Lord denies are not some additional, extra comforts. He takes away the things to meet their very basic needs.
Why then such a commandment? The fourth verse gives answer to this: Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.
Our Lord did not intend that his disciples would not have bread during their mission, but he decided that this bread would not come from their own bags, but from the ladles of their hearers. Those people who heard and received the good news of God’s kingdom were meant to be the ones who supplied them with their basic sustenance.
The reason for this can be two-fold. Firstly, it gave the hearers a way of showing their faith and thankfulness in tangible, concrete works of service. Those whose hearts were filled with new hope, joy and peace, were thus invited to take part in the mission of Jesus. Not as preachers themselves, but as ones who supplied for the preachers by giving them a roof over their heads, a bed, a meal, warmth and friendship. As St. James exhorted, they were given the chance to show their faith through their works as they took care of the disciples.
Secondly, Christ here wanted to bring his disciples into closer contact with the ones who they were preaching to. The disciples would not form an isolated group that just conducts hit and run preaching assignments. Eating the same bread and sharing the table with their hearers made them part of the community they preached to, allowing, or even forcing them to get to know the people they served with the gospel.
During my years of ministry I have come to understand that there are two things that make it hard for Christians to show love toward each other. One of them is the obvious one: we struggle with selfishness, and are often slow to help when others need aid. The other is more easily missed and it is this: we are reluctant to allow ourselves to be helped by others. We strive for self-sufficiency and independence, and even if there would be someone who would be willing to help and give, we try our hardest to hide our needs and problems. This problem can occur with pastors, when they try to be as self-sufficient and self-reliant as possible, perhaps imagining that in this way they won’t burden the congregation, but actually by so doing, they are unwittingly isolating themselves from the people they serve.
So here Jesus prepares his future apostles for the time when they, as bishops of the early church, would need to devote themselves fully to prayer and preaching, and allow themselves to be cared for by their hearers. Even today, it is not only the duty, but also the holy and unalienable right of the Christian to care for their pastors, and those preparing for that office need to learn the art of receiving kindness as well as showing it to others, lest they deprive their congregations of this God-pleasing sacrifice they otherwise would want to give.
This is the manner with which God provides for his servants, he operates as if working from behind masks. The disciples returned, our Lord asked them: did you want anything while you were on the road? And they replied: no. They had everything they needed. But how did they receive it? They received their upkeep from other people, but this way they were also shown from first-hand experience that our Heavenly Father knows our needs and provides for us.
Yet all the love and service we can receive from fellow men pales in comparison to the loving kindness and grace our Lord himself shows to us. Whatever house you enter, He once said to his disciples, there you should remain, and eat what is offered to you. Today we have come to the Lord’s own house, and set before us is the food he has prepared, a meal that restores the traveler’s strength and strengthens our faith. This is the house where we will not be turned away, where we are invited to stay, eat and rest. This is where those without bread will come to eat the bread of life; those without gold will drink the blood of Christ and receive eternal life; those with soiled tunics will be clothed with the white garb of Christ’s righteousness; those with no strength will be defended by the rod and staff of our High Shepherd. So leave aside your pride and self-sufficiency, and allow yourselves to be clothed, fed, defended and made rich by the Lord Himself. Amen.
I just love that!
Plus, this could not have come at a more perfect time for me since me and my family have been truly blessed in more ways than we could've ever imagined we would in this life.
Specifically, it also comes at the precise moment in time when I have been seriously considering whether or not to go to Seminary so this is an important reminder for me to not rob my fellow brothers and sisters of the joy of serving the Lord by providing for me and my family in whatever way they might deem necessary either now or in the future.
Even today, it is not only the duty, but also the holy and unalienable right of the Christian to care for their pastors, and those preparing for that office need to learn the art of receiving kindness as well as showing it to others, lest they deprive their congregations of this God-pleasing sacrifice they otherwise would want to give.
A mere six verses packed with so much wisdom!
I like how Luke 9:3 shows how the apostles were required to truly trust God to provide for their every need. As mentioned, their daily needs were to be met by those that received their ministry and provided hospitality (food and lodging).
In contrast, Luke 9:4 prohibits the Twelve from constantly moving about so as to secure better accommodations and provisions for themselves. The good will of those who received the Gospel and extended hospitality to Christ's ambassadors was much more important than the apostles' own personal comfort and well-being.
You know, with that in mind, I wonder if there's something to be said about this particular verse in relation to the kind of "Pastoral Musical Chairs" we so often see throughout Christ's Church today.
What I meant to say is that, nowadays, it seems rather rare for one Pastor to serve a single congregation during his entire life as a called and ordained servant of the Lord since he will likely receive multiple calls to other (and what he perceives to be "better" perhaps?) churches.
Regardless, the message couldn't be any clearer: we possess the same hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of all mankind that these Twelve were sent to preach about back then, which is why we have an obligation to show our gratitude to such men in our midst today.
Romans 10:15 (ESV) And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"
For the layman who's reading this passage of the text, I think the message is the same.
No, we're not the Twelve, and we're not Pastors ourselves, but if another believer wants to do a good work for us for any reason, then we should simply receive their generosity and kindness while thanking God for working through such people that He intentionally put in our lives.
So, for anyone who's reading this (family, friends, and strangers alike) who has either prayed for me or provided for me in some way or both, I just want to say THANK YOU and MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND YOURS!!! You know who you are.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, we need to leave aside our pride and self-sufficiency and allow ourselves to be cared for by other believers while always recognizing that we are "clothed, fed, defended and made rich by the Lord Himself" as He is the One Who ultimately provides us with our "daily bread" each and every day that He gives to us.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!