Archive | September, 2015

5 Surprising things about Biblical giving rather than hoarding

23 Sep


Why were the Israelites in the wilderness so unhappy? Events in the desert years ago still ring true today.


  1. The Israelites were hoarders.

Exodus 16 The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”

4-5 God said to Moses, “I’m going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day’s ration…

Moses said to them, “Don’t leave any of it until morning.”

20 But they didn’t listen to Moses. A few of the men kept back some of it until morning. It got wormy and smelled bad…

21-22 (After) they gathered it every morning, each person according to need.

The Israelites were in Wilderness of Sin. They were hoarders. Rescued out of Egypt, saved from slavery, free, yet their past life looked good to them as they move through the desert. They were hoarders of memories, false images from the past. And their holding on to the past makes them ungrateful, unhappy complainers. They have gone from one form of slavery, a physical slavery in Egypt, to an emotional and spiritual slavery of their own creation. What is an antidote to such a condition? Generosity, thankfulness and contentment are created by giving your money and time away. Research shows that people who describe themselves as “very happy” volunteer an average of a day month. Those who are “unhappy”? Just half an hour. (“The Paradox of Generosity”) Hoarding creates bitterness; giving, happiness.

  1. They were unhappy together.

“The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness.”

What were the people of Israel giving to their leaders, their families and themselves? Complaints. Suppose, just suppose, they shared encouraging words with Moses and Aaron and prayers of thanksgiving with each other and to God? Giving kind words, talents, time or money releases endorphins in the brain. This release creates positive feelings. Giving makes us happy. But hoarders by nature hoard; they can not give. The Israelites’ brains were dying due to lack of giving.



  1. They forgot how God surprised them in their collective past, ungrateful, their eyes were only on the present.

“You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!”

People who forget the goodness of the past live in the worries of the future. What did the Israelites think of God? How do they believe he is going to surprise them? They believe that God brought them to this desert to slowly starve them to death. A recent Harvard Business School study found that participants who believed that spending money on themselves would make them happier were wrong. All the participants were surprised that after giving money away to others they were happier. They had to take their eyes off their present. It is never about us; always about others. God surprises us when look past ourselves to others. And He surprises us with happiness.

  1. Hoarding is contagious.; it effects not just an individual but the community

“But they didn’t listen to Moses. A few of the men kept back some of it until morning. It got wormy and smelled bad.”

Why did God allow the Manna to last only one day? Because he wanted the people to depend on Him daily. But some of the men planned to hoard. They wanted to have more than they needed. But that extra bit never lasted. As someone once said, you can’t take it with you. If the Manna that was hoarded stayed fresh for more than one day, what would have happened? More and more people would try to take the Manna with them. Giving is the solution. Studies show that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. Generosity builds networks of giving. It is contagious and ends hoarding.  And finally…

  1. The people were not with God. Giving connects us to God. Proverbs 19:17 says that “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.” The Hebrew word for “poor” here indicates not just financial poverty; but people who are hurting emotionally or physically. A kind word; an encouraging text; a smile; giving a seat up on the tube to someone who looks hurting is all lending to God.

What could make us happier than giving to God? Nothing


14 Sep

As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him. 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.” 1 Samuel 17:48-49

For the past two Sunday evenings I have spoken at St Mary’s church on Isaiah 40. The link to the talks is here, (but the second talk is not up yet).

My single point is that as we read, wash and absorb the word of God as worship we will run quickly even toward the Goliaths in our lives. And we can run quickly, without getting tired because we run by the Spirit’s power.

This is the promise of Isaiah’s 40th chapter as it closes,

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.” NLT

God runs towards us and He desires we run by His power to others around us.

Run, quickly and in the Spirit’s power.

great samaritans

4 Sep

Recently, on 9 August I gave a talk at St. Mary’s church in Marylebone on Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. My focus was to look at the question that generated this parable and to look at a very similar question asked by another community leader a little later in Luke’s gospel. The question was about eternal life. The texts follow below with an answer in the essential summary section. In light of the immigrant crisis in Europe these texts tell us how we should live, both now and for eternity.

who is our, who is my neighbour

Luke 10: 25-37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’[b

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Essential question: The expert in the law’s question is “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” How do the parable and the expert’s dialogue with Jesus work together to answer this question?


The Rich Official Luke 18: 18-23 The Message

18 One day one of the local officials asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?”

19-20 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don’t you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honour your father and mother.”

21 He said, “I’ve kept them all for as long as I can remember.”

22 When Jesus heard that, he said, “Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23 This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go.

Essential questions: The local official’s essential question is “Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?” This question is the same one the expert in the law asked Jesus. Why do you think they both ask Jesus the same basic question? Is Jesus’ answer to them the same/similar or different? Why do you think he gives the official a directive and the law expert a parable?

Summary EQ:  Who are our neighbours?

Proverbs 19:17 states that “Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.” MSG

The answer to the question on how to inherit eternal life of both the expert in the law and rich ruler is the same: the poor around us are to be treated as images of God. The poor are our neighbours, our community and His children. The Hebrew word for poor (needy in the Message paraphrase above) in Proverbs 19:17 is dal. This word means not just financially poor, but those who are sitting by you, the tired and weary; the weak and the hurting. The migrants of the Mideast and Africa presently in all the deadlines and social media of Europe. To be a great Samaritan we need to reach loving hands out to them.

John the Baptist in Luke 3 answers the crowd’s question of ‘What should we do?'(10) with ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.'(11)

This is the gospel. It is life and how we should live.


John Calvin wrote that the great commandment is “The Lord commands us to do good unto all men without exception, though the majority are very undeserving when judged according to their own merits… The word teaches us that we must not think of man’s real value, but only of his creation in the image of God to which we owe all possible honor and love.”

Tim Keller ‘We are to honor the image of God in all people-it is to allure us to look at and embrace them.’

Hero’s first bath, a moving picture

4 Sep

Hero's first bath pic 1

Hero's first bath2pic 2

Hero's first bath3

Hero and DearHero and Dear