Generosity and Perspective, Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Lent and tithing: the connection makes sense when you think about it. Giving back to God a portion of what God has given to us is an effective way to keep both our blessings and our bounty in perspective in a world where want and need is so prevalent. This is not a call to feel guilty or ashamed. It is a call to stewardship, to responsibility, to awareness of our connection to all the people on the earth. God created them; Jesus died for them; and the Spirit nudges us toward them.
This passage in Deuteronomy takes on fresh meaning during Lent, but its teachings shape us throughout the year. What blessings do we have that God did not give us? What suffering do we bear that God, in Christ, does not experience with us? Our tithe, a returning to God, reminds us of this important relationship. The scripture clearly encourages us to accept blessings and inheritances. Just as clearly, this passage encourages us to a constant awareness that gifts from God carry with them a spiritual and a communal significance that is ours to oversee.
Read verse eleven again, ìThen you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.î The gift is bounty, more than you need or can use. The religious community is involved. Also involved are the “aliens” (displaced and migrant people of another country), and they are to benefit from this bounty. Note that the aliens are living with the recipient, and members of the recipient’s house are to participate. That would include family, servants, and anyone associated with the one who received from God.
The Lenten message here is one of generosity. God’s gifts to us are not meant for us alone. When we receive God’s blessing, we are also commissioned to become a distributor of that blessing. The instructions for distribution push through the dividing lines and categories that may be in place. We are to share, and we are to share beyond personal, familial, economic, and national distinctions. It is in Lent that we are most pointedly called to such communal awareness. It is in Lent that we are brought face to face with our kinship to all within our reach. Christmas calls us to generosity, too. But Lent calls us to a generosity that is also identity, our identity, in God’s eyes.
We are sister and brother to the servant, the slave, and the alien. Our relationship to the gift is affected in the same way. We are not only recipient, but also steward. Lent calls us to a rejoicing for the sake of others and with others; this is a humble rejoicing that shares fully, willingly, and quickly, lest anyone think we are entertaining ungodly thoughts of hoarding. The Lenten celebration is full of gratitude and sharing, and the deep joy that brings.
The Lenten family expands to the Lenten community, and God is worshiped and celebrated in the new and humble transformation of our hearts.
Help us accept the responsibility as readily as we accept the bounty.
Help us to redefine the words brother and sister.
A word about the series
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.