PLUM Pastoral Message
GIVERS are the HAPPIEST people.
“There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” Acts 20:35 (GNT)
Dear Partners in Ministry,
When it comes to generosity, one of the best ways to learn is from the examples of others.
I learned how to be generous from my parents, especially my mother. I grew up watching my mother give away so many things in life. She gave away her life, love, income, happiness, comfort, joy and food. She gave away time, talent, energy, and effort. She held out her gifts and resources with an open hand, and she is one of the most joyful people I have ever known.
The Bible offers another great model of generosity: the church in Macedonia. Here’s what the apostle Paul said about them: “We want you to know what God’s grace has accomplished in the churches in Macedonia. They have been severely tested by the troubles they went through; but their joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving, even though they are very poor” (2 Corinthians 8:1-2 GNT).
Notice how the church in Macedonia had their own problems to deal with. They were “severely tested” because they lived during the Roman Empire, when Nero was emperor. It was a time when being a Christian could lead to a death sentence. The Macedonians were not only being persecuted for their faith, but they were also extremely poor and maybe in need of financial assistance themselves.
But because “their joy was so great,” their difficult circumstances didn’t stop them from being “extremely generous in their giving.” They didn’t give out of duty or obligation. They gave out of joy.
A few weeks ago, I was elated when I participated in a service event with members of Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM). We assembled on September 10, 2022, at Christ Lutheran Church in Duquesne, Pennsylvania to package food for needy people around the world. We packaged thousands of meals for RISE AGAINST HUNGER for shipment to people across the United States and around the world. Funds for the purchase, packaging and shipment of these meals came from members of the PLUM churches. These people, like the Macedonian church, have their own financial needs and are living in an economy that is plagued by inflation and being hurt by a deadly pandemic but chose to give their resources, energy and time for the good of others. This is true generosity! And that’s where truly happiness is found.
It is praiseworthy to note how all PLUM congregations are giving back to their communities and doing exceptional ministries with their neighbors. All our congregations are doing phenomenal ministries. A few days ago, I was at the Blessed Bundles event at Lutheran Church of Savior in North Huntingdon. It is an excellent engagement with the community that is touching many lives. I see why most people in PLUM are happy. WE ARE GIVERS! Thank you everyone!
The Bible says, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35 GNT).
When I was a kid, I didn’t believe that verse. I was immature and thought it was more fun to GET than to GIVE. And Christmas was always about me: “What am I going to get?”
But as my parents taught me the value of generosity, I began to experience the joy that comes from giving. I slowly began to mature and understand there really is more joy in giving than receiving.
Maybe you find yourself giving out of pressure or compulsion—and you’re miserable. Try this instead: Give out of joy, knowing that God is always generous in providing for your needs. After all, he’s already given you the greatest gift of all, the gift of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.
I know it is difficult to be generous in a society that values materialism and hoarding (or individual acquisition of things) but I’ve come to know that amazing transformation takes place when you live generously in every area of your life. The grip of materialism starts to break, and your heart grows bigger.
But something even greater happens: You become like Jesus.
What is Jesus like? One of his characteristics is his outrageous, lavish, and radical generosity. Everything you have—the air and water, your brain and heartbeat, all your organs—is a total gift of God’s generosity. In fact, without God’s generosity, you’d have nothing.
Jesus is the master example of generosity. The Bible says, “You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor, and we became rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
What does that verse mean? Jesus Christ is God. He had all the splendor of heaven, but he gave it up and came to Earth to be born in a barn. That’s about as low as a person could go. Why did he do it? He certainly didn’t do it for himself. Jesus did it for you. It was the ultimate act of generosity: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16 ESV).
So why does God want you to live generously? Because he wants you to be like him, and that means he wants you to be generous!
The Bible says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV).
God didn’t put you on Earth to live for yourself. Instead, he put you here to learn how to be unselfish and focused on others. He made you to reflect him. We are God’s instruments of generosity in the world. We’re called, sent and scattered in our communities and society to be God’s agents of hope, peace and love. That’s generosity!
How are you imitating the generosity of Jesus today? Each time you’re generous with your time, vocation, talent, career, money, influence, or love, you begin to look more and more like him.
Pastor Alexander Sumo
On behalf of the PLUM Pastoral Team
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773