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Shane Willard

The whole rant - what was the problem? Generosity. The solution to their problem? Be Generous.

There’s this one scripture in Luke 3, it’s about a guy named John the Baptist, and he goes on this rant. This group of people comes out to be baptized by him; they're not coming to challenge him or anything, and here’s his response:

Luke 3:7-9 - “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Not the greatest church growth technique is it! People coming out to be baptized by him, and his answer is: you basket of snakes, you fatherless people, there’s a word for that it starts with a B; don't want to call people that right?

You basket of snakes, you fatherless people - it gets worse: “the axe has already fallen to the roof of your trees, and every one of you will be cut down and thrown into the fire”. I would suggest to you that John is not a Baptist at all. He’s more a Pentecostal pastor on speed!

So he gives this whole rant, what sin do you think he was addressing? Idolatry, homosexuality, everyone knows there’s 3 things the Lord hates right? What is he dealing with?

The crowd is taken aback, and asks: “what would you want us to do?” He says: “Let the person with two tunics, share with the person who has none; and let one with food do the same”.

The whole rant was about generosity and greed.

Luke 19, there’s this encounter with Jesus and Zacchaeus, where Zacchaeus gives half of what he has to the poor; and Jesus says: that’s it - salvation has now come to you. Generosity.

Acts 2 and 4, it says “they sold everything they had, and gave it to those who were in need” - and that’s the period of time where God moved the most mightily through the church.

James 1:26 says: “If anyone considers himself religious, and does yet not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself, and his religion is worthless. Religion that our God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress”.

The religion our father sees as pure is Generosity.

Now let me go back to this, the first and holiest offering in the Tzedakah system was called Terumah. Let me give you the gist of it.

Some farmer in the Gold Coast explained this to me from a science perspective, I’m sorry I cannot re-explain it. Essentially what he told me was: when you plant a field, a certain percentage of the field comes up first (has something to do with the half-life of a seed). When that comes up, its called the first-fruit.

Now here’s what they believe. Whatever is true of the first-fruit is true of the whole crop. That went through their whole culture: first born – whole family; first words – whole book; first letter – whole word.

What’s true of the first mention, is true of every other mention. What’s true of the first fruit, is true of the whole crop.

So think about it: if what's true of the first-fruit is true of the whole crop, then it’s very important that the first fruit is holy.

The word is Bikkurim: the only way for the first fruit to become holy, is that it becomes Terumah.

For the first fruit to become Terumah, two things had to happen. One, it had to be lifted high.

The word Terumah, the root word is room, which means ‘to lift high’. In English its translated ‘wave offering’, ‘heave offering’, ‘high offering’, ‘high-holy offering’; in one place it’s called the Tribute.

So they lifted it high, essentially saying: I gift this to God. My first-fruits belong to God.

The second thing they had to do was: place it into the hands of their pastor. So they had to lift it high; place it into their hands.