Last weekend I was a guest speaker at a church which was in the midst of a series on the hallmarks of their spiritual community. Generosity, of which I taught on, is one of those identified hallmarks for this community. When one shows up on Sunday morning and the subject is generosity, one could possibly think the message is about giving more money. That, however, would be short-sighted.
I spoke from John 2:1-11, Jesus turning water to wine at the wedding feast in Cana. There is, as in all of John’s writing, much going on in this text. I focused on 2:11:
“This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”
What was it that the disciples saw when Jesus manifested his glory? Is “glory” referring to a display of Jesus’ power? Is that what so impressed the disciples to the point of belief?
I wanted to get a grip on exactly how much water/wine was involved. John says the 6 jars were 20 to 30 gallons each. So how much is 120-130 gallons of wine? Today, bottles of wine are typically 700 ml. That gave me a more concrete image. I did the math. Impressive. That feast became one big party when Jesus provided what was the equivalent of between 650 and 970 bottles of wine! That’s a lot of wine. So what is John getting at with these details?
John’s Use of “Glory”
In my studies of John I have been intrigued with his use of the word glory. John 1:14 says we have “seen his glory, glory full of grace and truth.” This text is connected back to Exodus 34:6. Exodus 34:6 is quoted abundantly throughout the Old and New Testament. In this passage God reveals his glory to Moses and proclaims he is a God “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” John is saying that the glory he and the others saw in Jesus is exactly who Moses saw. And what they all saw was the God of love and faithfulness, grace and truth.
I don’t have the space here to follow this thread through the entirety of the gospel of John, but the punchline is that the disciples caught a glimpse of who God is and that captivated them. An absurd amount of wine at a small village wedding feast was but a glimpse into the reality that would be fully displayed on the cross. Our God’s glory is his love. First, the love between the Father and the Son by the Spirit throughout all eternity. And then that same love poured out to us in Christ.
Our God is a generous God, ever lavishing himself toward us.
Generosity is the giving of oneself to another.
Generosity in and Through Us
Generosity is not a determination I muster up within myself. I don’t get pumped up by a sermon or a book to give more of myself, then go out and try harder. As in everything, generosity is relational. My God ever pours himself into me. Then he overflows in my life towards others. This can come through in many ways, like listening to another’s heart.
Here is the principle: In order for me to be a generous giver of myself to others, I must be taught by God to be a practiced receiver of himself. He pours into us, then he overflows to others.
How are you being taught by God to receive of himself ? How have you experienced him overflowing through you to others?
If you would like to listen to my original sermon on generosity, you can obtain it here.