Sabbath as Fuel for Generosity
During Jesus’ ministry, someone in a crowd approached him hoping to get Jesus to force his brother to divide their father’s inheritance with them (Luke 12:13). We don’t have many details, so we aren’t sure if the inheritance was deserved or not, but we see in the text that there was greed in the inquirer’s heart.
Jesus refused to step in to settle this personal dispute, then used the moment to teach against greed. He followed with this parable, found in Luke 12:16-21:
“The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.’”
There’s a lot of great stuff here, but I want to focus specifically on the statement the rich fool made to his soul. After he had acquired himself large barns worth of crops– in the moment where he felt he had “made it”– he could finally allow himself to relax and enjoy life.
This mindset is about as anti-Sabbath as you can get. In Sabbath living, God tells you to regularly stop working to enjoy Him and the gifts of life, knowing that we are not defined by our productivity and success. In contrast, this man lived as though he had to get to the top of the ladder before he could ever rest. In doing so, he missed living a life of real value, foolishly building his stockpile while ignoring the real riches of a relationship with God.
Today, I’d like to suggest that the practice of Sabbath is deeply connected with our generosity.
See, when we live as the rich fool, resting only when we think we’ve attained enough success and safety, we become servants to our stockpiles. Instead of becoming generous people, our focus becomes the ruthless pursuit of obtaining more. Our generosity, if it ever comes, becomes predicated on the lack of sacrifice we have to make for it. According to Jesus, though, our generosity isn’t always going to be easy. It’s good, and it forms us toward Christlikeness, but we’re missing the mark if we decide to only be generous once we’re rich. Generosity starts with the small things.
However, when we practice Sabbath we build a habit of rejecting greed. We stop our pursuit of getting more and choose to be content in Christ with all we have. This, inevitably, will cause us to be more generous people. The more we reject our greed, the more we will want to be generous toward others with our resources, understanding that knowing Christ is our ultimate goal.
Maybe a next step for you as you’re seeking to grow in generosity is to begin by practicing the Sabbath. Jake Bishop talks about this practice in more detail on Episode 10 of the Impact the World podcast, which you can find on West Park’s website.
Consider how the practice of Sabbath is connected to generosity. (Note: increasing your generosity is not the primary purpose of the Sabbath, just a natural side effect.) Consider how your current lifestyle rhythms shape your approach to generosity. Consider whether or not you are, as Jesus puts it, “rich toward God.”
On the day your soul is required of you, how will you have prepared it?