Saturday, March 21, 2020

Sowing alms

Sermon for the fourth Sunday in Lent

A letter plops through the door. It's addressed to you personally and you don't know who it's from. How exciting! And then you open it. "Friend, can you spare £1 a month to support XYZ...?"

How do you feel? Is it a disappointment?


There are lots of charities out there all asking for money. Many are very worthy and make a real difference to the lives of the needy. Others are less scrupulous and spend the money on less than useful administration.

Sometimes we tire of all this. It seems to be unending begging.


St Paul seems to be a bit unscrupulous, too. He tells the Corinthians that he has boasted how generous they are to the Macedonians. This seems to have made the Macedonians give more to the relief fund for the needy of Jerusalem. Now St Paul is telling the Corinthians that he's sending people to them to help them collect alms so that when the Macedonians visit, he won't be embarrassed by a small Corinthian collection. 

Is St Paul being cheeky or is he being manipulative and dishonest?


If we look carefully at St Paul's theology of almsgiving, we see that he is perhaps being a bit cheeky but ultimately has concerns for the well-being of the Corinthians, Macedonians and needy of Jerusalem at the forefront of his intentions.

St Paul tells us that he sees almsgiving to be like sowing seed. If we show much seed then we can expect a good yield. But surely, if the Corinthians are generous in giving money to the needy, they are not going to get a return on an investment?

St Paul is using the same association of giving alms with sowing seed as Our Lord does. Almsgiving is not just giving money, it is taking pains to make a positive difference in someone's life. The more goodness we sow, the more goodness is to reap. Unlike material goods which decrease when we share them, the goodness of God that we sow in the world increases when we share it. This is why St Paul is not being dishonest or manipulative in challenging the Corinthians to be cheerful givers and to be generous. He wants everyone to benefit. Even if people compete at doing good things, they do so in the knowledge that everyone wins. 

That's how it is with God. Everyone wins.


If we hold onto a worldly view of material worth, then it becomes harder and harder to give, because the more we give the less we have. Our Lord Jesus challenges us to change our point of view and see what we have as seeds to sow and grow. What we lose physically, we gain spiritually and substantially so that, when harvest time comes, we actually have more than we planted through God's goodness.


How much do we give, then? As much as we can hope to bring good into everyone's lives. We might not be able to give to everyone, but we should rejoice in the knowledge that what we do give will make a difference.

After all, the seed that Our Lord does is His own body in the grave. Look how that grows and bears fruit!

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