The Slavery of Plenty

Scripture: Galatians 4:6-7
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Reflection: The Slavery of Plenty
By Jon Polk

Paul’s insinuation that we are slaves to forces outside ourselves is met with resistance by modern readers. We like to think of ourselves as independent beings in control of our own destinies.

We may acknowledge that those who live in countries around the world with oppressive political systems are in a form of bondage, as are those trapped by addictions to drugs or alcohol. But many who live comfortably, with good jobs, happy families and spacious homes, are reluctant to identify with the slave metaphor Paul uses to describe our fallen state.

However, although we may not recognize it, we are far too easily enslaved by our possessions, our comfortable way of life, or our status and authority.

Christians can find it difficult to resist the temptation to return to our old selfish ways. Paul is concerned for the Galatians because they “are turning back to those weak and miserable forces” (v. 9).

In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther acknowledges this difficulty, referring to our old nature as slaves to the Law.

If it thrusts its nose into the business of justification we must talk harshly to the Law to keep it in its place. The conscience ought not to be on speaking terms with the Law. The conscience ought to know only Christ. To say this is easy, but in times of trial, when the conscience writhes in the presence of God, it is not so easy to do.

The Holy Spirit living in us reminds us that we are daughters and sons of God through the sacrifice of Christ, who was sent by God to set us free. We are no longer slaves to our selfish nature or to the cultural forces of materialism and security that seek to draw our attention away from God. Luther encourages us,

If we could be fully persuaded that we are in the good grace of God, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we are the beloved children of God, we would be ever so happy and grateful to God.

As we begin to grasp the depth of what God has done for us through Christ, we find ourselves on the road to freedom, discovering our true satisfaction in God alone.

A Request for Presence
For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly, my hope is in him. — Psalm 62:6

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 24 (Listen – 4:48)
Galatians 4 (Listen – 4:13)

Generosity that Outlives Tragedy

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:11
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

Reflection: Generosity that Outlives Tragedy
By Jon Polk

Response to tragedy often brings out the best in humanity. The Apostle Paul spent many years raising funds from believers during his travels in order to assist Christians in Antioch who had suffered through a decade of famine and persecution. Writing specifically to the church in Corinth, Paul praised the believers for their faithfulness and generosity.

In our own time, popular Houston Texans’ player J.J. Watt spearheaded a fundraising campaign to assist those affected by the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. More than 200,000 contributors raised over $37 million in a matter of weeks.

But what happens when time inevitably passes and the images of destruction and devastation no longer dominate our screens? What is the limit of our generosity?

Many people are eager to donate towards an immediate one-time need, but are resistant to living an on-going lifestyle of generosity. Even Christians can be hesitant to let go of hard-earned cash. David Garland notes,

Most people subconsciously employ a kind of mental air defense system to deflect any appeals for money that their radar screen picks up as approaching their way.

Church-goers may cringe at the annual sermon on tithing or the church’s month-long budget campaign. Often, in an attempt to convince members to give, appeal is made to Paul’s note in 2 Corinthians 9 that those who sow generously will also reap generously.

So the more I give, the more I will get? Well, yes and no.

Take a closer look at what Paul describes as the return-on-investment that Christians receive when they give generously. You will reap a harvest of righteousness. By sowing generously, you will reap generosity.

The implication appears to be that the blessings received as a result of generous giving may be material, but are more likely spiritual. And if God does, in fact, supply the generous giver with an increase in material blessings, they are intended to be a resource for continued generosity.

The more you get, the more you give.

So cultivate a pattern of generous giving and living. If you’ve donated towards Hurricane Harvey or Irma relief efforts, the apostle Paul would commend you for your faithfulness and generosity. He would also then encourage you to find ways to continue to be generous. Become regular with your tithe, contribute towards a ministry organization, or support a missionary. Give generously so that others might experience the work of the Holy Spirit through you.

*We are thankful to have Jon as a new board member and a contributing author. Follow him on Twitter: @jonpolkministry. John

The Greeting
I will offer you a freewill sacrifice and praise your Name, O Lord, for it is good. — Psalm 54:6

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 16 (Listen – 4:03)
2 Corinthians 9 (Listen – 2:26)