Generous with Wealth

Homily, Generous with Wealth
Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 26C, 2022
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church
Tequesta, FL

The Rev. Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

Isaiah 1:10-18
Psalm 32:1-8
2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Four people. Four Stories. Four Lessons on Generosity.

Today we conclude our four part sermon series on how we might shape our lives around the principle of generosity. So grab your journals. Do some note-taking, doodling, sketching, and I’ll have two prompts at the end. 

And today, I’d like to try something different. Today I’d like to try to weave our story into the words of one of my favorite songs by a group called the Porter’s Gate. As we hear the words to these songs, may we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. 

Four people. Four Stories. Four Lessons on Generosity.

Today we hear the story of Zacchaeus. The infamous chief tax collector. Wealthy and successful. Perhaps short in stature, but high in influence. Like the rich and famous of today, when people thought of Zacchaeus, they thought of luxury. Zacchaeus was one who had made it in life. 

And yet, something was missing. And despite his normal attraction to the extravagant and expensive, he found himself captivated by this simple and grubby, wandering preacher named Jesus. So when he heard Jesus would be passing by, he ran to find the perfect viewing spot, which just so happened to be up a tree. So letting go of his dignified persona, he climbed it and waited for Jesus to come. And when Jesus approached, he saw Zacchaeus up there. Jesus’ eyes pierced the tax collector’s heart, and Zacchaeus was never the same. 

Jesus our Lord came to seek and to save,
He sought me ought and he called me by name.
Foolish and proud like a sheep gone astray,
He said child, “Child, to your house I will come today.”

Salvation has come; salvation has come to this house today.

The Zacchaeus Song by the Porter’s Gate

In that moment, something happened in Zacchaeus’ heart. Zacchaeus experienced first hand, the generosity of God. And something shifted in his perspective. 

See, all this time Zacchaeus thought he was pretty good. He thought he had it all mostly together. Yes, his approval ratings were pretty low. His fellow Jews were angry with him that he had sided with the empire’s occupation of their homeland. They were upset with him because he collected their taxes, but of course they were, who likes paying taxes? 

For all the criticism he got, Zacchaeus was a smart man. He had made a way for himself in a difficult time. He paved his own path. He was business-savvy. An entrepreneur. 

He provided a service for people, compensated himself for his hard work, and was now being vilified for his success. What’s so wrong with success? Zacchaeus was proud to have made a name for himself. 

But perhaps that was the problem. Zacchaeus had only made a name for himself. He had only thought of himself. Maybe it wasn’t his success that was the problem, but that every decision he had made along the way had himself as the central reference point. 

Yes, maybe he had given to charity here and there, but his primary goal had always been the bottom line and his own upward mobility. He never seriously considered how his business practices and financial decisions impacted those around him. 

And when Jesus looked at him, like a rushing wind, this all suddenly became clear to him so that he declared:

Much I have gained, but I’ll give even more;
half of my wealth, it was robbed from the poor.
O this injustice, Lord, help me restore,
for you called me by name and said “Sin no more.”

Salvation has come; salvation has come to this house today.

The Zacchaeus Song by the Porter’s Gate

Generosity. That’s what Zacchaeus felt in Jesus’ gaze. Out of all those people in the crowd. All those people who thought so poorly of him, Jesus stopped and spoke to him. Out of all the people to have dinner with, Jesus asked to have dinner with him. 

And it got Zacchaeus thinking…

What would it like to live life another way? What would it look like to do business another way? To make financial decisions another way? To practice generosity? What if my central reference point was not myself, but my community? How would that change things? 

It seems counter intuitive, and yet what if living life in that way is more fulfilling than living only with self in mind could ever be? What a blessing that would be!

He said it’s more blessed to give than receive,
to open my hands to the ones I’ve deceived,
to bring reparations of all I have thieved.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Yes, now I can see.

Salvation has come; salvation has come to this house today.

The Zacchaeus Song by the Porter’s Gate

This is the story of Zacchaeus, and thus ends our series on generosity.

Four people. Four Stories. Four Lessons on Generosity.

From the story of the samaritan healed of leprosy we’ve learned to be generous with our gratitude.

From the story of the widow seeking justice, we’ve learned to be generous with our trust.

From the story of the tax collector and his prayer, we’ve learned to be generous with our vulnerability.

And today, from the story of Zacchaeus, we’ve learned to be generous with our financial wealth. 

Generosity flows from the heart of God into every part of our lives. It’s not just about giving money, but giving the wholeness of ourselves to God in service to the world around us. 

Generosity says that all we are and all we have come from God and that our treasures—be it financial, mental, spiritual, social, physical—all our treasures are gifts best shared with others. 

So here are your two prompts:

  1. How is God calling me to offer the wholeness of my self as a gift to others?
  2. What is God teaching me about the meaning of Generosity?

Jesus our Lord comes to seek and to save
the broken the lost, and the sheep gone astray.
O lay down your treasures, for they’re just golden chains;
He says, “Child, I will come to your house today.”

Salvation has come; salvation has come to this house today.

The Zacchaeus Song by the Porter’s Gate