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The More He Gave, The More He Had

The last shall be first, and the first shall be last
Matthew 20:1-16

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Sermon Week Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 20:16


A man went to see the pastor of a downtown Church and told him a distressing story of poverty and misery in the neighborhood. "Not far from this Church," the man said, "lives a poor widow who has four hungry children to feed. She's sick in bed with no money for a doctor, she is six months behind in her rent payments and, now, this poor sick woman and her four hungry children are about to be evicted. I'm here because I'm trying to raise the rent money. Can you help?" "I certainly can," the concerned pastor replied. "If you can give your time to this worthy cause, so can I. I'll help you raise the money. By the way, who are you?" To which the main replied, "I'm the landlord!"

The story is reminiscent of a book published several years ago called, "Looking Out For Number One." In it, the author argued strongly against generosity. For example, he said that if you "make the other person's happiness your first responsibility, you pervert the laws of nature" ...and, "Unless someone is poor because you robbed him, no downtrodden individual is your responsibility." The New Testament authors are telling us, of course, that if you follow such advice, you are perverting the law of God. The really troubling thing about "Looking Out For Number One"1 is that it was so well-received -- a monster bestseller in America.

Why does such a book sell so well in our time? Are we attracted by the title because it states our secret longings? Do our hearts echo "Yes!" to the notion that living well means abandoning our religious tradition of heroism or sainthood? Have we slipped so far down the ladder of morality that we're ready and willing to embrace the looking-out-for-number-one notion that other people are mere instruments of our pleasure and gratification and self-aggrandizement? Are we ready and willing to join those in this busy-dizzy world who see the Christian Faith -- the whole religious enterprise -- as incongruous and irrelevant and out-of-place? Are we ready and willing to join those who [...]

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