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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy


I've been thinking a bit lately about what it means to be Generous. There are so many needs in the world, in our communities, on our street corners, in our families, and perhaps even within our souls. What is reasonable to share? What does God ask of me? Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Love others. To generously share finances, yes, but also generously share our faith, our kindness, our forgiveness, our grace, our ears, eyes, strength, and voice. Our very selves.

God evaluates our actions on the basis of our attitudes. John 3:16 reveals his attitude toward giving: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (emphasis added). Note the sequence. Because God loved, he gave. Because God is love, he is also a giver. He set the example of generosity motivated by love.

In Matthew 20:1-16, a landowner was extremely generous to a group of workers who put very little time in for him. He was also pretty generous with several other groups who put in a bit more time. Then, he was fair with the workers who jumped in early, willing to work a full day. My current-century thoughts included: "Would it have been so bad to have flipped a little extra cash at the folks who put in the most work?" and "Couldn't he have been 'generous' (i.e., more than just fair) to that group as well?" I smiled to realize those didn't seem to be very generous takeaways from the lesson! Clearly, deeper reflection was necessary, and deeper reflection helped.

The parable's landowner entered into an agreement with all of his workers; they had reason to believe that he would pay what their work was worth. If the landowner in this parable is our God, we understand that God, too, has made a promise to us - one that we are welcome to accept early, accept late, or reject altogether.

But we might also wonder what our faith is "worth" to our God? The sporadic or late-comer faithful among us might arguably fall short of an ideal: we likely see ourselves among the group of later-hires on the landowner's day. But the landowner still provided a full day's wages, even though these workers arguably could not have expected such pay. In a group of (faith) laggards who sometimes fear that we may not be deserving of some of God's graces, or maybe even God's ultimate promise, might we hope that God will make such a generous place for us, also? The lesson teaches us that we can. We can even move beyond hope to trust God will. "The last shall be first."

Others of us, early in life, learned and experienced deep faith; we know that God is with us, and we trust that God will have a place for us in the Kingdom of Heaven. The most faithful among us rarely waiver in daily prayer, rituals, beliefs, and behaviors: these are the group of the landowner's early, day-long workers. So, in answer to the earlier question of what about these folks? What was "in it for them" to be always faithful? Is God being generous to them? The parable explains to this group that while "the first shall be last", there is no question whether there will of course be room: they will receive their full day's pay. But why ONLY the day's pay? We have to recognize the fulfillment of God's promise is as generous as God can be! There is NO MORE generosity, no BETTER generosity; NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.

For the God who calls all of us Beloved - the ever-faithful, the seekers, the weak-in-faith, the lost-faith - the promise of Christ's death is for all of us, all day long, no exceptions. So today, might we pray for the trust and faith necessary to be joyful and at peace in the knowledge of God's generous promise to us? And let's pray that we hold God's generous love in our hearts, sharing it with others as widely as we can.


1. The Generosity Factor - Cathy S. Truett, Ken Blanchard

2. God Does His Best Work with Empty - Nancy Guthrie

4. Generous Justice – Timothy Keller

5. It's Not Supposed to Be This Way - Lysa TerKeurst

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