How Generous are you?

Mark 12:38-44

“Lending a liver”

Giving till it hurts.

Several years ago after having some medical tests my father rang me worried about his results which showed possible problems with his kidneys. Without giving it much thought I said he could have one of mine. Later after thinking a little more I rang him back and suggested that mine may not be much better than the ones he already has to which he answered “No your thinking of your liver and as you only have the one, you best keep it”.

In the 1970’s Kerry Packer while in London visited a Jaguar showroom to look over the XJS, which at the time was the pinnacle of car sophistication and speed. Impressed with what he saw he asked what colour they came in. Told there were five different colours, he ordered one of each, only to give four of them to some of his employees.

Author Christopher Lee notes in his book Howzat that:

“Those who knew him tell of sudden and unexpected empathy coming from who knows where inside this big and brutal man. Helping friends and strangers. One employee told of a trip to Perth where for some reason his feet had swelled up and he couldn’t get his shoes back on. Kerry let the other passengers off the plane and as the bemused airline staff looked on, knelt down on the floor at his feet and gently slid his employee’s shoes on for him”.

The book and film of the same name “Black Hawk Down” catalogue an event that took place in 1993 in Somalia. Famine and civil war had gripped the country resulting in over 300,000 civilian deaths and the warlord had declared war on the United Nations peacekeeping force. During a raid to try and capture two of the warlord’s chief adviser’s a Black Hawk helicopter was shot down deep in the city. The pilot survived but was trapped in the chopper with the ground forces unable to reach him due to coming under heavy fire, so two highly trained soldiers were inserted by helicopter to the crash site. Eventually they were overrun but during but during the battle they were recorded talking calmly and methodically, and seemingly without fear to each other via radio, one each side of the downed chopper:

“I’m hit in the right arm, going to side arm. I’m hit in the chest” and so forth until the inevitable ending.

Two men that gave their lives, seemingly without hesitation and today at 11.00am during that long one minute’s silence we remember all the service men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

A world war II veteran many years ago told me that in the field, some of the most death defying acts of bravery came from people you would least expect it and in the Gospel today Jesus lays down side by side two outwardly differing classes of people. The honoured religious teachers whose standing in society was so respected that in the streets people would rise as they passed with only the tradesmen at work given exemption to this expectation. Not that their position as such was the problem, the problem it would seem is that they have started believing their own press and become self- intoxicated with their high status.

Alternatively, widows were socially powerless and honourless in this society that emphasized status and honour. To those present this is a no contest as to who they would want to hang out with. Yet Jesus, as he still does in our times, looks past the outer shell and sees things for what they are. That the religious teachers have lingered long in their individual prayers in the synagogues is not the issue, the issue is the motive of this longevity that Jesus criticizes. “It’s all show and no go” and Jesus sees here that social injustice and religious hypocrisy are inextricably linked and takes his stand on behalf of the powerless, this widow who gives the most insignificant amount of money in worldly terms, but in her situation-has given everything.

When I was coaching footy in a small town, one of our young guys had been asked to try out in “the big smoke” and upon hearing of this another player who had previously played 200 odd games in the highest competition in Adelaide has to offer, sought him out and said “After you’ve stripped down and are getting ready for your first training you will look around the room and see the other players muscles and body physics and you will wonder what you are doing there, don’t worry about it, it’s what inside you that counts”.

Or in car parlance it’s what’s under the bonnet that counts and through this widow’s seemingly insignificant offering we see that behind it lies her love of God. A love of God that we should all heed to.

We may or may not have much in the way of material things but that’s not the point. It’s about using what we have and who we are, and placing both at God’s disposal. To give our love and time and our compassion non judgementally to those he brings before us-irrespective of class, race, rich or poor for all are God’s children.

At my brothers funeral after listing his achievements which included many bravery awards from within and outside the police force, from within and outside of his work hours the Assistant Police Commissioner closed with “We (the police force) have lost the best of the best, and the people of South Australia have lost a truly dedicated, courageous, sincere and giving servant”.

Later we were overcome by stories of his escapades, escapades though that he never saw the need to tell us of, as it would seem that it was just part of doing what he believed he was meant to do in his line of work and in his life. Acts of duty that although they resulted in others regarding him highly did little for his own self- gratification because he knew the truth-that before God he was a sinner with no claim whatsoever of salvation other than in and through the greatest servant of all, Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives us to serve each other and all those he places before us and we should be unthinkingly open and extravagant, even reckless in our efforts to serve, to forgive and love those around us. To give of ourselves not under the weight of second guessing all our actions as if to make life a burden, but like the widow in the gospel, give spontaneously just as things come before us-. To not dwell on and worry of have we done enough or not enough-but just live in the moments-whatever those moments may be, be they sadness or happiness, failures or achievements. To serve and to be served however they come into play. Live free without worries of yesterday or tomorrow but trust that God will use our lives: our successes and failures: our actions, both great seemingly significant and insignificant: trust that God will use our lives to build His kingdom and serve His children in ways that we could not imagine or need to know.

However it may play out in our lives, to give of ourselves freely. However the moments in our lives play out, to live them in freedom, in the sure knowledge that before God the Father, our debt has already been paid in full by His Son and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.


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