From Bling To Blessing - Walking Wisely Week 6

Proverbs 11:23-31

Did you know that at one time generosity was illegal in Santa Cruz, California? That's right. Pastor Billy Strayhorn noted that about fifteen years ago, it was illegal for someone to put money in other people's parking meters without their permission. The practice called "plugging coins" was considered an illegal act by Santa Cruz municipal code. The fine for a parking violation was $12.00. The penalty "plugging" thirteen dollar.
Mr. Twister whose real name is Cory McDonald, is a professional clown and balloon twister, who has spared many car owners in Santa Cruz, California the misery of that twelve dollar parking ticket by putting quarters in their expired parking meters. After several warnings, Mr. Twister was ticketed for his random acts of illegal kindness. However, he refused to stop doing what he considers "doing to others as he would have them do to him."
But there is justice. In a strange twist, the news media got hold of the story and pretty soon Mr. Twister was being interviewed by CNN and nearly every news organization in the US. Letters from children all over the country began pouring into Santa Cruz City offices. Other clowns got into the act. Bumper stickers were created.
Mr. Twister became a local and national hero.
His acts of kindness prevailed. Declaring the law a "public relationship disaster," the Santa Cruz City Council took emergency action to yank the law from the books immediately. In an effort to show their support and their chagrin, each member of the City Council, along with the mayor, donned red clown noses and beeped their vote of approval.
Rather than see his Benjamins and Bling as something to aquire and protect, Mr. Twister saw it as a blessing and a chance to bless.

I am not a fan of clowns but I am a fan of this one! His story speaks to the heart of Proverbs on being wise with our bling. Yes – Proverbs speaks to gaining wealth and Yes – it speaks on the issues of poverty and Yes – it speaks on dangers of greed. John Wesley neatly sums this up in the sermon on “The Use of Money”. He laid out the foundational understanding that a believer should, “Having first, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.”

But if all we dwell on is gaining and saving and avoiding greed – if this is what we take away from God's Word – on Solomon's wisdom then may God have mercy for we are clowns and jesters in the court and are making a mockery of the blessings of God and considering it merely our bling.

The issue at hand is not about giving money to the church – the issue is the condition of your heart. These aren't my words but the words of Solomon. This section begins and ends with a reference to those who are “Righteous.” A person who is righteous is in line with God's character for God is just/righteous as noted in the words of Job: "Shall mortal man be more just [righteous] than God?" (Job_4:1). On our own can we be righteous? The Bible clearly says no but it also makes clear that one of God's deepest desires is for his children to follow in His way. Over and over, the Bible identifies, describes, shows and demonstrates it is the nature of God to be generous. So to with His followers.

There are unfortunately barriers that come to us all – verses 27-29 identify that there are those who go after evil and when they do so they will find the results destructive. When it comes to finances and greed, such desire will damage even a family. Bankruptcy and tax evasion are two that I have seen in ministry that have damaged families, some irreprably.

When that damage occurs in the church, the family of God suffers harm and it calls into question whether the church is trustworthy. I know there are those who come here who carry wounds caused by churches. I know many of your stories related to this so you may think at this moment I am talking directly to you – and I am – but “you” are a whole lot of people.

It is hard not to hold back when we've been hurt in any relationship. But Solomon in his wisdom noted the danger in verse (24) that, “One person spends freely and yet grows richer, while another holds back what he owes and yet grows poorer.” Be it our estate or our soul, when we lack generosity we will know poverty. And so I ask the question, when it comes to generosity, what is the wise thing to do?

But Ken, that poor guy could get a job, why should I give? But Ken, I was in a church that abused my financial gifts? There valid questions – good questions but not the best because the wise question has to do with our souls. And the wise hear that we need not be irresponsible with our bling but turn it into blessing.

In 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his lifetime he had given away.

Wesley wasn't tithing. Tithing is the Bible's understanding of the minimum we ought to be giving to God. Generosity means we're talking above the 10 percent! Now you may say God has no right to ask that but if you believe God is God, and you are alive and have breath and are here then you are blessed. We all tithe to our mechanic, to our mortgage lender, to the grocery store – they tell us the cost – we give the minimum.

My words are a poor expression of all that I feel toward what God has given me. But the life that I now live following cancer and depression has strengthened my understanding of the generosity of God. If God only gave the minimum to us, we might have an argument. Look at it this way [says Paul in Romans 5:6-10] At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. (7) Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. (8) Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God's love for us. (9) Since Christ's blood has now given us God's approval, we are even more certain that Christ will save us from God's anger. (10) If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us.

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