• Steven Marsh

Giving–Enough Already: a Reflection on Psalm 125, Mark 7:24-37, and Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-2

Tomorrow through Wednesday, I’ll be in Pittsburgh for a meeting of the Presbyteries’ Cooperative Committee on Examinations for Candidates (PCCEC), a permanent committee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which writes and administers the five standard ordination exams (the Bible Content Examination and the Senior Ordination exams of Biblical Exegesis, Theological Competence, Worship and Sacraments, and Church Polity), for those who wish to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) as Ministers of Word and Sacrament. I have been elected to a four year-term.

Standards matter. The principles that guide and instruct our lives are extremely important. In fact, how we live or don’t live by standards forms one’s reputation. It’s all about integrity, my friends. When I board my flight to Pittsburgh Monday afternoon, I will once again be reminded about three standards. The Captain gives a PA instructing us to wear our seat belts and not to congregate around the lavatories. And the lead flight attendant instructs us to put our oxygen mask on first before we assist those around us. They’re great standards. Speaking of airline standards, I ran across this fun fact.

There’s a very important letter that every pilot-in-training needs to learn about—the letter V, short for velocity. V-speeds are derived from aircraft designers and manufacturers during flight testing. Heeding to the limits of V-speeds maximizes aircraft performance and safety. The FAA has designated at least 35 different V-speeds. All of them are important, but there are six that every pilot must master.

For instance, according to the FAA manual, VRis the speed required to get a plane airborne in a reliable, predictable fashion. VSrefers to the plane’s stalling speed. VAis often called the plane’s “design maneuvering speed.” Given rough flying conditions, exceeding the VAspeed can cause structural damage to the plane. VNOis self-explanatory. It corresponds to the upper limit of the plane’s airspeed in smooth air conditions. Finally, there’s the velocity classification known as VNE, which is the absolute, never-to-be-exceeded velocity for your aircraft.[1]

We need standards. God has set them for humanity. And in dialogue with God, each one of us must develop our personal code of standards to make a better society.

When it comes to giving for the sake of others, standards are essential. At the foundation of God’s standard about giving fully of ourselves rests this truth from God’s Word. Proverbs 22:22-23 reads, “Do not rob the poor because they are poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate; for the Lordpleads their cause and despoils of life those who despoil them.” Your moral character and mine forms a community after the heart of God rooted in the peace and justice of God. Character rooted in the peace and justice of God “takes up the task of searching and seeking out the fullness of life, received as gift of God, and manifested in the particularities of everyday lived experience.”[2]God is the Creator of all of us and all of life as we know it. That’s right. All animals, fish, insects, reptiles, birds, the earth and planetary system, the sky, oceans, stars, moon, sun, and the air we breathe are created by God.

God favors the poor and God’s pursuit of justice for the downtrodden is relentless. In partnership with God, your life is given for that cause. All the capital you have in mind, heart, spirit, and finances is to be given for the sake of others to know the surpassing worth of being loved by God. That’s the point of your existence and mine.Our lives are Christian wallets. The verses in Proverbs 22 are wise nuggets of instruction. Susan T. Henry-Crowe writes, “Wise and true, these proverbs offer ideas and ‘best practices’ of how to live a life of honesty and integrity where honor, justice, and good reputation are prized.”[3]

God’s nature, presence, and activity is for you to be about favor for the poor and justice to the downtrodden. Mike Slaughter in The Christian Wallet emphasizes the importance of living a giving life for the poor and downtrodden and not having an attitude that “You’ve given enough already” when he writes, “There is no clearer indicator of our ultimate values than our financial priorities and practices—how we spend, how we live, how we save, and how we give reveal the true altar of our hearts.”[4]TheLordadvocates for the poor and downtrodden through you and me. We are to be God’s voice of peace and justice in the way we give of our time, talent, and treasure.

My friends, it’s never enough already when it comes to being a wallet of benefit for the poor and downtrodden. It was the Syrophoenician woman who demonstrated that it wasn’t enough already. She was persistent. Even for the crumbs. Jesus healed her daughter because of her immovable faith. Let us lift up Psalm 125:1, “Those who trust in the Lordare like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” It truly is all about the letter “V,” velocity. And our faith in Jesus Christ keeps us going.

[1]Robert Robinson, Macon, Georgia; source: Jamie Beckett,“V Is for Velocity,”Flight Training (July 2012). The illustration is found on http://www.preachingtoday.com.

[2]Stephen C. Johnson in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 29.

[3]Susan T. Henry-Crowe in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 4, 26.

[4]Mike Slaughter, The Christian Wallet (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016), 1.

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