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Weekly Devotionals

Grace to Generosity

23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy[g] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. – Luke 4:23-28

As we will soon be in the season of Advent, I would like to share a few verses about our theme and our church’s name from Luke 4:23-28. This is the teaching of Jesus that comes right after Jesus’ proclamation of the year of Jubilee and the good news to the poor and the oppressed. In this passage, we can see a bit of a confusing scene where things have escalated very quickly to the point where the crowds tried to kill Jesus. So what happened?

In verses 24-27, Jesus mentions four people that would bring up lots of mixed feelings from the Jewish audience. They were Elijah, a widow in Zarephath, Elisha, and Naaman, and they were the names that appear in the familiar stories of how God has been working signs, miracles, and healings outside the rebellious Israel. These names were the names of the stories that reminded the Jews of their stubborn heart, unrepentant religiosity, and God’s transcending grace that extends to those who love him instead of those who fall into a category.

So, when Jesus referenced these stories to tell the audience, Jesus was telling that the same will happen if they reject Jesus like their ancestors. Instead of bringing healing and showing signs to the Jews who are fixated on their view of Jesus, Jesus is going to extend his love and grace to the outsiders, like the poor and the oppressed in verses 18-19.

This has so many great implications, but the one I would like to focus on is that grace reverses our understanding of “fairness.” The reason why the Jews were so offended by what God was doing in OT and what Jesus proclaimed in NT is that they saw how God’s grace has been given to those who do not “deserve it.” They thought it was not fair. However, we see throughout the scripture that grace doesn’t work on our matrics of fairness. Instead, God’s love and grace are often given to the outsiders who seem to deserve the least.

With this framework of grace, then, one of the actions that we are called to is generosity to those who deserve the least of it as it also ties with the implications of Jubilee from verses 18-19. To those who understood the true meaning of what grace is, the definition of fairness should no longer be a determining factor in our understanding of giving and sharing. For example, we often cling to our resources, whether time or money, and refuse to give because we think we “earned it,” and it feels “fair” to enjoy the fruits of our labor. But, when we begin to understand how grace has allowed these resources to come to us and that they are the Lord’s resources, it may be clear that we do not automatically deserve to have certain things because we earned it. This should also be applied in many other parts that concerns our resources, such as our use of time with the outcast and marginalized, our emotional investment to those who doesn’t seem to fit into our church, and etc

So, especially as the season often marked with giving is on its way, I want to challenge you with these questions.  Whether intentionally or unintentionally, whom have you categorized as those who deserve less? What kind of friendship, relationships, and familyhood have you approached with the lens of this world’s definition of fairness and worth? What are the areas that you think belong to you instead of being entrusted to you?

As we enter into the season of Advent, I pray that we will all the more remember the kind of grace that flips the world’s crooked understanding of fairness and that was given to us as a result. And I pray that we will be the ones who embody grace through our generosity.