Generosity in the Midst of Scarcity – Luke 12:22-34

Nathaniel Miller   -  

One of the most beautiful themes of the Scriptures is that God is a gracious and generous host who has given us as humans a world packed full of resources and potential.  We can see that in the opening pages of the Bible.  But it doesn’t take long for humans to call this into question.  Adam and Eve’s choice to eat of that forbidden tree in Genesis 3 proved they felt God was holding back.  Though he freely gave them all the trees in the garden to eat, they doubted his goodness and generosity.  They decided to take and hoard for themselves.  The entire story of the Bible shows how humans have made scarcity out of abundance.

You might be staying at home reading this (as I am while typing it) and thinking that in a short period of time, things have become quite scarce for us.  It’s hard to find certain items at the grocery stores, many businesses are closed, people have lost jobs and wages, we’re separated from family and friends, and worst of all, some have lost their health and lives.  Our world certainly doesn’t look like one of abundance right now.  We might even be tempted to think that God is no longer a generous host.

At the beginning of many mornings, as I sit and quiet my heart to pray and read God’s word, a sound disrupts the silence.  It’s the morning song of the birds.  As Francis Chan wrote, “Every day a sermon is being preached, saying God provides, God sustains.”[1]  I hear the song, I hear the sermon, I hear the words of Jesus from Luke 12: “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” So let’s do what Jesus said and think about the ravens for a minute.

First of all, the raven is not a pretty bird.  It’s quite creepy and a good choice for Edgar Allen Poe’s poem of the same name.  Ravens are scavengers.  They’ll eat just about anything from plants and berries to roadkill.  Because of that, God declared that they were unclean animals (Deuteronomy 14:11-18).  Jesus’ listeners would have steered clear of them.  But that just highlights his point.  These creepy, unclean birds that the Jews would avoid – these birds had enough.  God was providing for them.  Jesus challenged their scarcity mindset – doesn’t God value you more than these birds?

Jesus goes on to another part of creation: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”  Once again, let’s follow Jesus’ instructions and think about lilies.

Lilies are much easier on the eyes than ravens. They’re quite beautiful, for sure. They can grow to be as much as 6 feet tall.  They are one of the top 10 flower choices for centerpieces and bouquets.  Many churches would probably have them right now for Easter if they were meeting.  Jesus draws their attention to their beauty, claiming King Solomon in all his abundance never dressed this well.  Jesus’ point again is that God provides for this flower’s beauty.  Why are you so worried about what you are going to wear?

Someone in the middle of this pandemic might call out Jesus on this one.  “Jesus, you’re being naïve.  We don’t have enough.  Look at what this virus has done to people, our cities, states, nations, and world.  How can you make such a claim?”  Lest we forget, Jesus wasn’t born into a life of abundance.  His crib was a feeding trough in a place where animals sleep.  And while foxes had holes and birds had nests, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head, a place to call home.  He lived under Roman occupation with heavy taxation and oppressive rule.  Jesus was acutely aware of scarcity.  Yet he lived with the mindset that there was enough.  You can see it in how he spent his time, energy, and resources.

What is Jesus’ remedy for his followers during this time of crisis?  Think about birds, think about flowers, and then seek the kingdom of God first above all else.  He then tells this dear little flock of sheep that they would not have to search for this kingdom as though it was some lost treasure buried in the ocean.  It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Once again, this theme of generosity springs up.  God has been, is, and will forever be a generous host. He is not hoarding a kingdom like Caesar and other earthly rulers.  He wants to share it.  He has promised to give it to the followers of his dear Son!

Many people take this Scripture as a cure for worry and stop there.  Jesus doesn’t.  In verse 33, he tells his listeners to sell their possessions and give to the poor.  If I truly believe that God is a generous host, that there is enough and He is providing, that He has promised to give me His very own Kingdom, then a radical change takes place in my heart.  Not only do I stop worrying about whether there is enough for me, but I also begin to open my eyes to the needs of others.  I look for opportunities, even prepare for opportunities to be generous.  This is where King Jesus didn’t just give us words of wisdom; He gave all that He had himself when He died for our sins upon a cross.  Indeed, though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Refuge Church, may we prove the generosity of our God and King during a time in which the world believes there’s not enough.  May we be like the Macedonian churches of 2 Corinthians 8, who “in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.

Looking for a way to show generosity?  You can give to 4,000 Steps: Human Coalition’s Fundraiser.  Though the 4,000 Steps event is transitioning from an in-person event to an online event, they are still actively raising money for support! You can donate through Josh and Jamie Strickland’s Fundraising Page

Want to spend more time thinking about the biblical theme of generosity?  Listen to BibleProject’s podcast series.

[1] Merida, Tony and Francis Chan. Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary: Exalting Jesus in Philippians.  B&H Publishing, 2016.

Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.