2 Corinthians 9:6–11, Matthew 6:16–18
Misery loves company, so it is said. By misery, we aren’t talking sadness, grief, or mourning. We’re talking about the attitude of heart, soul, and mind that finds the worst in it all and revels in it.
Sadly, there is often a strain of that in the church. “Look at what I gave up” or “I give to help those…” In holiness traditions, such as ours, that has long been a tendency. What is always amazing is how it is often dressed up in “doing the right thing” or “not being of the world” or “not putting ourselves in the way of temptation”. This might sound a bit snarky. There are a lot of people who honestly mean it. Yet there is a strong (and often loud) group where they want the attention for the activities they avoid, rather than living out the grace bestowed upon all believers by Jesus. They are often miserable.
When we read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9:6–11, we (reasonably and rightfully) see wisdom regarding money and actions. Yet, the “right” actions (including giving money, time, and effort) need a basis of generosity and grace, not misery. Hearts focused on God’s immeasurable generosity and grace will be far more inclined toward sharing it with the world.
Jesus’ words echo this when talking about those that add to their physical discomfort (hunger) and add a deliberately poor appearance. They were happy together in their misery. They took joy in their misery, using it as a source of pride, control, and influence.
We can look around us and see many of the same tendencies in the secular world. It is not immune.
1) As we have the wisdom of God in the scriptures, and the words of Jesus, how can we teach others (in and out of the church) to not live the life of self-righteous misery?
2) What are your thoughts about how an attitude of grace and generosity can fulfill Paul’s words?
3) How does fasting and giving in private add or subtract from an attitude of grace and generosity?